The first school built in the Medulla area was built of logs sometime before 1885. About 1882, three one-room schools were known to be in the area. In the 1905-06 school year, these schools were merged to form the Medulla School District with a two story wood building built on the existing site.
These schools included the old Medulla School, located near the site of the Ardella Church, the Greenwood School located off Carter Road near Klein Road, and the Kirkland School located on Parker Road between Waters and Lunn.
The building located at 850 Schoolhouse Road, was two stories with the downstairs two rooms used for the first through sixth grades. There was one room upstairs for seventh through tenth grades and an auditorium that was later used as a classroom.
The land that Medulla Elementary is situated on was a five acre parcel donated by Peter C. and Mary E. Hays.
In 1982, an additional 5 acres were purchased by the Polk County School Board. The wooden building was replaced in 1927 with what is now the Administration Building.
According the “History of Medulla School and Parent-Teacher Association” written in 1954, the Medulla PTA became a Charter Member 1935. Prior to that, the PTA was in the form of a “Mother’s Club” formed for the benefit of the children and the school. In 1941, a temporary lunchroom opened in one of the classrooms and the PTA kept the lunchroom operating by contributing food and canning it for lunchroom use. The PTA provided all of the equipment for the lunchroom until 1946. Lunch prices in 1944 were $.15 and in 1954, $.25.
In 1905, lunches consisted of whatever was available at home, varying with the season. During the harvest season, variety was all right and the quantities were sufficient. Fruit, pork and beef were often seen in lunches. Sometimes, smokehouses became empty, and lunches consisted more of biscuits and syrup and sweet potatoes. Another favorite was black-eyed peas with rice.
At the beginning of the Medulla School, students traveled to school on foot, on horses, in buggies, and on mules. Some students traveled as much as 5 miles or more taking more than one hour each way. The roads were rough and sandy and creeks had to be crossed.
Later, when transportation was provided, a truck was converted into a bus with benches for seats. The children referred to it as the “chicken coop”. It picked up students from a large surrounding area including the areas now served by Cleveland Court Elementary, Carlton Palmore Elementary, Scott Lake Elementary, Sikes Elementary, and R.B. Wagner Elementary.
The basketball courts were first constructed in 1940 and competitive teams played other County Schools until the mid 1950’s.
In 1977, an industrious group recorded the memories of several former Medulla students. They were transcribed in 1995 by Susan Jones, Principal at the time for the 90th Anniversary. In those memories, these former students recalled playing “fox and hound”, Tag, and “Mostly, just making up our own games as we went”.
They describe wild boars and pigs stealing their lunches and chasing goats away from the outhouse.
Students in the original building were expected to do their share of the cleaning, bringing in wood for the heater and any other of the chores that needed to be done. The first custodian also served as the bus driver.
While people who came during various “boon” times to take advantage of the vast resources that Florida offers settled much of Florida, most of the original settlers of the Medulla area were farmers who settled here to live off the land. The primary industry other than agriculture was Phosphate mining.
Almost all of the Medulla families were involved in either farming or mining. The school served as the hub of the community and the assembly room upstairs in the 1905 building served as a meeting place.
Box Suppers, Punch & Judy shows, and other community affairs were held at the school. When the railroad came through the area north of Medulla, the small community did not grow as its neighbor, Lakeland, did. As the years have gone by, Medulla School has been slowly transformed from a small rural school to a suburban school. Throughout the years, the spirit of excellence has been a highlight of the School.
Students from all years report the emphasis on achievement and the security they felt as members of the Medulla community. This tradition continues today in the varied programs offered students to improve academic achievement while maintaining the feeling of being part of a special Medulla family.