OCPS's The Early Years (1860s-1890s)

The Early Years (1860s-1890s)

Orange County Public Schools dates back to December 1869, a time when teaching as a profession was uncommon. In the frontier days, schools were often an extension of the church, and ministers taught students during the week in the same community where they preached on Sunday. Education was rather informal, and lasted only several months.

The residents of that time were typical frontiersmen, many of whom settled in search of a better life. After the Civil War, the population of Florida grew, as northerners and southerners alike moved to escape the turmoil of reconstruction.

photo of first school

In 1869, the state of Florida passed the first secular school law, which established Orange County as a school district to be governed by an appointed board of three members, and to be run by a superintendent. The new county board was empowered to levy taxes and to issue “certificates of competency” for teachers.

Photo of first superintendnetW.C. Roper, A.C. Caldwell, and Zelotes Mason were the first board members, with W. A. Lovell serving as superintendent. Teachers were paid one dollar per month per student, which originally came from tuition paid by parents and later from tax revenue.

Teachers were expected to be able to read intelligently from the Bible and the school reader, to be able to teach properly from them, to be able to spell correctly and teach spelling, and to be able to write legibly.

The population of Orange County grew from 2,195 during the 1870 census to 6,618 by 1880, which made it necessary to open a number of new schools, from five schools in 1871 to more than 160 in 1889. Keep in mind, however, many of those schools had fewer than 10 students! It wasn’t until the early 1890s that laws started to govern the minimum distance between schools and how many students they should have.

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