Before the construction of Berryhill Elementary School, students in grades 1-12 attended the Santa Rosa County Graded and High School, located on Canal Street. This building presently houses the County School Board Administrative offices.
Berryhill was the first pure elementary school in Milton. It was built to alleviate the overcrowded Canal Street site. The construction bid was opened before the School Board on July 27, 1925. In checking the School Board minutes of the time, the minutes from the July 27th meeting are not included within the official records. What is reflected in the records is that in the meeting of October 6, 1925, the Board visited the site and determined much progress had been made. In the minutes of December 8th the Board, "found everything in order, with a few exceptions, but decided to wait until the architect was present and gave his final O.K.". It appears that during this era Berryhill, Bagdad, Holley and Jay schools were completed. The minutes of December 24, 1925 indicate that the bid for the new Jay School was awarded for $36,844.65. Since all of these schools had similar floors plans, one can rightly deduct that all 4 schools were built for a similar amount of money. Upon completion in 1926, Berryhill provided instruction for students in grades 1-6.
The site on which the original school stood has an interesting history. When Florida became a state in 1845, the county's first sheriff was the Honorable W.W. Harrison. He took office in the wooden courthouse building used as the original school site. The Courthouse remained as the center of county business until burning to the ground in 1875.
The Santa Rosa County School Board began acquiring property for a school as far back as 1878, when Lot 7 in Block 73 was purchased from William Judge and his wife. In 1899 Warren Lodge Number 8 deeded additional property to the school board. In 1923 the final piece of the property was purchased from Etta and H. L. Cohen for the sum of $2000.00. No record has been found of the school board ever obtaining lots 1 and 2. Although in the tax records of 1950, the school board is the owner of the entire block.
When Berryhill opened its doors in 1926, Mr. Raymond B. Hobbs was the first principal. Mr. Hobbs served successfully until 1941, when he became principal of Milton High School. Mr. Claude Locklin, Sr., succeeded Mr. Hobbs. Mr. Locklin led Berryhill until 1944. Mr. W.I. Lee was the next principal and served the shortest period of time - two years. Mr. M. Luther King transferred from Bagdad Elementary in the fall of 1946 to become Berryhill's next principal.
During Mr. King's administration, the school reached capacity and began to overflow. It appears that growth at Whiting Field contributed to a rapid influx of students. To alleviate overcrowding, a unique plan was devised. Depending upon where they lived, students attended one of three sessions. The first session, which ran from 7 A.M. until noon, included the short-run busses and the around-the-edge of town students. The afternoon session took care of the town children and began at noon and went until 5:00 P.M. These two groups either began or ended their day with lunch at school. The last group was the all-day group, which began its day at 8:00 A.M. and ended at 2:45. These students had the longer trip to school coming from across Blackwater River, Munson Highway and Highway 90.
To help correct the overcrowded situation, six new classrooms were constructed on the present Milton High School site in 1951-52. Fifth and six grade students from Berryhill filled the new classrooms. Due to limited facilities, students were bussed back to Berryhill for lunch, music and library. In 1952-53 two more classrooms and a library were built at the MHS site. The site was then renamed the Ernest Amos Elementary School. However this designation lasted only a short time. Mrs. Alice Williams served as principal.
In 1953 the new Milton High School was completed and the facility known as the Ernest Amos Elementary School was incorporated in the new school. The old Santa Rosa County Graded and High School was then restructured and became the Canal Street Elementary School under the leadership of M. Luther King, who had previously been principal at Berryhill for seven years. Canal Street School housed one section of third grade, and all fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. Mr. Mahlon McCall, Sr. became principal of Berryhill at this time with first, second, and the remainder of third grade students under his leadership.
Oakhurst Elementary (presently, W.H. Rhodes Elementary) was built in 1956 and housed the fifth and sixth grade students. Canal Street had all third and fourth grade students, while Berryhill, under the leadership of William R. Land, had all first and second grade students. It was during this arrangement the first county portable building was built on the Berryhill campus for a first grade class. The grade organization lasted until 1961 when all schools became graded 1-6.
The fall of 1968 was significant for two reasons: the beginning of kindergarten in the state and the opening of Hobbs Middle School. Our first kindergarten class was under the direction of Mrs. Hazel Bertrand. She had both a morning and afternoon session during the early years of the program. The opening of Hobbs Middle School took Berryhill's sixth graders. This made the grade organization K-5 as it remains to the present day. Incidentally, Hobbs Middle School was named for Berryhill's first principal, Mr. Raymond B. Hobbs.
Mr. William R. Land transferred from Berryhill to the county office during the summer of 1974 to be Chief Negotiator and later Assistant Superintendent for Personnel. Mr. Land had ably served Berryhill for eighteen years. Mr. Terry L. Neustaedter succeeded him and remained principal for 33 years, until retiring in January of 2008. Mr. Roger Golden who had served as principal at Jay Elementary, succeeded Mr. Neustaedter and continues to serve in that position today.
It was during the summer of 1974 that Berryhill underwent a complete renovation at a cost of $265,852.40. Earlier improvements had been made in 1954, 1961 and 1966. Subsequent efforts included installing heat pumps, energy windows, insulation and remodeling a restroom.
During the summer of 1988, the Berryhill faculty was involved in the formulation of educational specifications for a new building. Land was purchased and a bid was let in July 1989. The completion date for the new facility was July 1990.
A Continuation of Excellence: The New School
On August 19, 1990, a formal dedication ceremony officially introduced the new school to the community. Principal Terry Neustaedter welcomed everyone to the new facility. State Representative Bolley "Bo" Johnson provided the keynote address. Superintendent Bennett C. Russell expressed his appreciation for the efforts of all personnel in readying the school for its maiden voyage. Superintendent Russell discussed his dream for the new and exciting educational facility. Former Superintendent Radford M. Locklin was in attendance as were members of the Santa Rosa School Board.
The 3.7 million-dollar facility opened its doors to 705 students on August 20, 1990. Because of rezoning to help alleviate overcrowding at several schools, Berryhill welcomed students from T.R. Jackson, W. H. Rhodes and S.S Dixon. The influx of students from other county schools as well as new students to the area and adjustments to a large, multi-acre campus with a significant number of new personnel proved to be an interesting and trying experience. Moving from a facility located on three acres, ten portables, 20,000 square feet and 500 students to a facility located on twenty acres, three portables, some 80,000 square feet and 705 students required many adjustments. By Christmas students, faculty and staff were operating in an efficient manner. Procedures and rules were standardized and everyone began to feel comfortable with the new facility and its personnel.
In subsequent years Berryhill has added to its original building. Three separate bids were let to add to the building. Four room additions were added for the 1993-94 and the 1997-98 school terms respectively. A six-room addition was completed for occupancy during 2001-02 school term. Another wing of six classrooms was added in 2008, and another four classrooms was added to an existing wing in 2012. An existing classroom was also remodeled to give us our second computer lab. We now have a computer lab for grades K-2, and another for grades 3-5.
Berryhill has been recognized by the State as an “A” school repeatedly over the years for academic excellence. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has also continually accredited Berryhill. SACS accreditation means that Berryhill meets the criteria for educational standards as set forth by the regional accrediting association.
Berryhill is proud of its partners in education, PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) and volunteers; and we truly appreciate them! We are continually recognized as a Golden School Award recipient. The Golden School Award is presented to those schools, which have parent volunteer hours equal to two times its student enrollment.
Berryhill feels a commitment to helping our community by continually participating in fundraisers such as the American Heart Association’s "Jump Rope for Heart" program and the American Cancer Society’s "Relay for Life".
As we reach this milestone in our history, we congratulate all our former students, teachers, staff and parents for their contributions in making Berryhill a "very special place"! Our hope is to continue to provide a quality education for our students while instilling in them an appreciation for those values that have made Berryhill great! The future is bright and encouraging! Let’s all continue to support the ideals and history of Berryhill as we progress into the 21st century!
- Berryhill History