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Osprey School

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Ann A. Shank, former County Historian
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center

Sarasota History - Osprey School photo

Having been vacated by the School Board in 1989, the building stood empty until restoration work began in June 1995. It is now the visitor center for Historic Spanish Point.

The Osprey School was one of eight built in Sarasota, Osprey. Laurel, Nokomis and Englewood during the land boom of the 1920s. The rapid population growth during that period forced the Board of Public Instruction to launch a building program that provided students and faculty with much needed modern and adequate facilities.

Tampa architect M. Leo Elliot, designer of Bay Haven and Southside elementary schools and Sarasota High School, drafted plans for the Osprey School. Limited to $30,000 for construction, the board rejected all the original bids as too high. After Elliot modified his design, the board accepted a construction bid of $19,306. The limited budget resulted in a design much simpler and less decorative than the one used for Southside and Bay Haven schools. It still retained, however, the elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival style that was so popular during the 1920s.

The one-story, six-rooms-in-a-line school was laid out to take advantage of cross breezes for cooling. An exterior hallway on the west shaded classrooms from the afternoon sun. The school initially housed first-through ninth-grade students from the Osprey and Vamo areas. Although born in the Land Boom, the Osprey School soon felt the effects of the bust and subsequent Depression.

Community and school population declined, as did tax revenue. Teacher salaries, never high, diminished at times and Osprey parents complained of the high rate of teacher turnover. In 1933 the spring term ended several months early and the fall term began late. Evalena Vane, who was principal and only teacher at the school during part of World War II, remembers fathers and brothers making necessary repairs on the building and mothers providing picnic lunches for outings.

After World War II the population of Sarasota County again soared, straining the capacity of the now older school buildings. Not until 1959 did Osprey School benefit from a renovation and expansion program. Air-conditioning and heating units were added to each room, along with modern light fixtures. An imported barracks classroom housed a library.

The last students to attend Osprey School left in spring 1976. The School Board converted the building for adult use and housed the Teacher Education Center there until 1989. Five years later the school was added to the National Register of Historic Places. During dedication ceremonies, a historical marker was unveiled at the site to commemorate its place in history.

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When the Out of Door School opened in 1924, its name reflected its program. The 20-acre campus on Siesta Key, fronting on Big Pass, was the classroom. Class and study time, rest hour and pageants were held in the sun and fresh air, along with more typical outdoor activities such as swimming, sailing, horseback riding and other sports and games. Early classrooms (for rainy days) and dormitories for boarding students were small wooden cabins with screens and shutters.

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