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Brookside Addressed Physical, Educational Needs of Students

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Lorrie Muldowney
Source: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Photo Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources

Sarasota History - Brookside Addressed Physical, Educational Needs of Students photo

As with other civic architecture, the design of public schools provides a measure of community values that extends beyond mere function.

In Sarasota County, several waves of school construction have occurred, spurred by population booms and accompanying increases in the school-age population. Schools from each of these eras create a snapshot of prevailing architectural style, from the earlies wood frame vernacular school houses of the teens, to the fanciful Mediterranean Revival buildings of the 1920s, to the sleek, modern schools of the 1950s.

During World War II, the Sarasota County School Board was confronted with the pressing need for new schools county-wide. Student population increased more than 30 percent during the time between the 1940 and 1947 academic years.

In the 1946 school year, selected schools experienced a 20 percent increase in membership. Most of the schools in operation in Sarasota County in the 1950s had been constructed during the previous building boom of the 1920s, and several, such as the Miakka School, predated even this time. According to Tampa architect John Howey, in his book “The Sarasota School of Architecture”: “Before Brookside School was designed, a lengthy study was made of existing Sarasota schools. They were found to be badly oriented, cold in winter, hot in summer, and poorly ventilated.”

In July of 1953, when school superintendent Carl Strode presented the annual school board budget, it identified the school system’s five-year building needs. The need for three schools was identified: an elementary school for Sarasota, a junior/senior high school for Venice, and a junior high for Sarasota.
Although approved within a year of one another, the differences in design between Alta Vista Elementary and Brookside Junior High represented a changing trend in the design of Sarasota Schools, which, before it concluded five years later, would garner national attention.

Brookside School was the first school in Sarasota County that embraced both the principle of modern architecture and modern education. Brookside was designed as a “cluster school,” an idea growing in popularity nationally and brought to the attention of Sarasota’s School Board by member Phillip Hiss.

Its design was intended to create small clusters of classrooms with a friendlier atmosphere and less of an institutional look. Additionally, the school’s 8-foot roof overhangs, jalousie windows and east-west site orientation were planned to maximize air circulation and shade in a time long before schools were air-conditioned.
A father-son team of architects, Ralph and William Zimmerman, designed Brookside and, later, Booker High School. When put to bid, the school came in $45,000 under budget, $8.80 per square foot, paving the way for the future construction of similar schools.

Changes made to accommodate a growing student population, and to retrofit classrooms for air-conditioning, have caused the Brookside campus to lose its design integrity. Slated for replacement in 2000, one can only wait to see if this new school will herald a new era in school design as did its predecessor.