Special events planned through Oct. 1
The students, staff and families of Bay Haven School of Basics Plus in Sarasota are planning a weeklong “birthday party” —Sept. 26 through Oct. 1 — to mark the 90th year since the school was established, the Sarasota County School District has announced.
The festivities will include special lessons, activities and events every day “to involve the school family and the surrounding community in commemorating the school’s opening day in 1926, tracing the school’s history to 2016 and burying a time capsule to be opened at the 100th anniversary party in 2026,” a news release says.
When the doors opened at Bay Haven School, President Warren G. Harding had recently installed the first radio in the White House, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were aspiring young novelists, the Empire State Building was under construction, Little Orphan Annie had just made her debut in the comics, yo-yos were catching on as a new toy, raccoon coats were the height of fashion and the first Mickey Mouse cartoon was the most popular movie of the day, the release points out.
“A lot has changed in the 90 years since, but Bay Haven — now known as Bay Haven School of Basics Plus — is still going strong as an innovative educational facility and an integral part of Sarasota’s community life,” the release says.
Bay Haven and Southside elementary schools were built from identical plans in the Mediterranean Revival style by M. Leo Elliott, an architect from New York with offices in Sarasota, Tampa and St. Petersburg, the release explains. “The schools were designed to accommodate 600 students each and cost $72,000 apiece to build.”
“The schools’ locations north and south of the city center were recommended by nationally renowned city planner John Nolen, who planned the city of Cambridge, Mass.,” the release continues. “Some city leaders were skeptical about building new schools so far from downtown.”
The Great Depression closed Sarasota’s public schools for lack of funds in February 1933, the release notes, but the Bay Haven PTA kept the doors open by charging tuition to families who could afford to pay and sponsoring fundraisers for those who could not.
“Parents worked in the kitchen and provided vegetables, canned fruits and milk for free lunches for needy students,” the release says. “In 1934 the Florida PTA convention honored the Bay Haven PTA for its welfare work and membership efforts.”
In 1937, Bay Haven established the first in-house elementary school library in Sarasota County. In 1962, it became the first Sarasota County elementary school to be integrated, enrolling 29 African-American students, the release continues. Bay Haven became the site of the first kindergarten in a Sarasota County public school in 1964, the release adds, and the school building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
“In 1983, Bay Haven was designated a magnet school that students from any neighborhood north of Gulf Gate could attend. The name was changed to the School of New Basics to reflect a back-to-basics curriculum created in response to a rising national concern about school quality and the need to improve student’s fundamental academic skills,” the release says.
The key features of the curriculum were Spanish language instruction, more computers, smaller classes and increased parent involvement. For their children to attend the new school, “parents and guardians were required to sign contracts that committed them to enforce academic and behavioral standards, to attend PTA meetings and to volunteer time at the school,” the release adds.
In 1990, Bay Haven received the National Elementary School Recognition Program Award.
To mark the 90th anniversary milestone, students and staff will be sharing fun facts about the 1920s in classes and during announcements every day; conducting social studies activities related to the Roaring 20s; and wearing mustaches, headbands and fashions popular at the time, the release explains.
Wednesday, Sept. 28, will be Spirit Day, when students will plant a tree and bury the time capsule to be opened in 2026.
On Friday, Sept. 30, birthday cake will be served during lunch, the release says, and students will perform historical sketches and songs.
On Saturday, Oct. 1, the public is invited to a special celebration that will include an Anniversary Day proclamation, hallway exhibits and an antique car show, the release adds.