OCPS's Delaney School

Delaney School

Delaney School Still Standing
Delaney School Still Standing

Mrs. Owens’ fifth-grade classroom at Delaney School is now a computer lab for senior citizens. The school, which opened in 1920 and closed in 1975, sits on Delaney Avenue at East Gore Street, just east of Orange Avenue. Today it is known as the Mayor William Beardall Senior Center, and serves Orlando residents six days a week in a modernized facility.Photo of Jim Manuel

The school was a mainstay of the neighborhood for decades in which most children walked or biked to school. There was no air-conditioning and no awnings for parent pickup. Jim Manuel (pictured right), who attended the school for five years starting in about 1953, remembers having to go to the basement level to use the bathroom. He also carried a raincoat to wear home in case of inclement weather. He can still point out many of his former classrooms, including Mrs. Owens’.

Photo of Delaney SchoolThe building still retains black letters spelling out “Delaney School” above the main entrance, which Manuel remembers primarily being used by visitors and adults. The sweeping staircase led up to a door that opened steps from the principal’s office.

When the school opened midway through the 1920-21 school year as DeLaney School, it had eight teachers and its principal was Mollie Ray, whom an elementary school was later named for. From September 1920 until construction was complete in February 1921, its teachers and students attended Magnolia School on a second shift in the afternoons.

The current public entrance on Gore Street is near the entrance Manuel remembers using as a first grader.

“There was a safety patrol waiting at the door, and I never thought I would be that old,” Manuel said with a smile. Several years later, he was not only a safety patrol but a captain.

He points out where the two playgrounds were and remembers visiting teachers at the school on breaks and during the summer. He even remembers being part of a program honoring departing principal Gulliver when he was in first grade.

“We sang ‘So Long [It’s been Good to Know You)]’ and wore cotton beards to look old,” he said.

Today, Manuel frequents the Beardall Center to use the gym, see friends and to attend foreign language classes and community meetings. The center also hosts dances, creative writing groups, clubs, art classes and popular field trips. (His wife, Dr. Deborah Manuel, was deputy superintendent of OCPS in the early 2000s).

The senior center, which opened in 1983, retains some features of the old school. Wainscoting in the stairwells is original, many former classrooms retain their initial dimensions and the auditorium has been repurposed into a ballroom. The balcony is now a lecture room. A local blogger, John A. Dalles, describes the architectural features of the school as matching the Prairie Style, particularly in its brickwork.

A few other Orlando schools from the same era still stand. The 1921 location of Jones High School is now the Callahan Neighborhood Center. Of those built in 1926, there is Princeton Elementary; Cherokee Junior High is now Cherokee School; Grand Avenue is under renovation for recreational use by the City of Orlando; and Orlando High School is now Howard Middle School.

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