Posted in Buildings, Fruitvale, Schools, Uncategorized

Fruitvale Open-Air School

About Open-Air Schools

The schools were a single-story building with integrated gardens, and pavilion-like classrooms increased children’s access to the outdoors, fresh air, and sunlight. They were mostly built in areas away from city centers, sometimes in rural locations, to provide a space free from pollution and overcrowding. 

New School House

School Children Enjoy the Open Air – SF Chronicle July 15, 1910

Free education and fresh air has interested educators from as far away as Paris, France

Oakland Tribune – May 13, 1913

The first open-air school in Oakland was established at the Fruitvale School No. 2 (now Hawthorne School) on Tallent Street (now East 17th). When it opened, there were forty students enrolled, from grades third through seventh. Miss Lulu Beeler was selected as the teacher because she had prior experience working in an open-air school in the East.

 The school designed to help cure ill and tubercular children. The focus was on improving physical health through the infusion of fresh air in the classrooms and into the children’s lungs. The school was established as a medical experiment. The school reserved for children judged to be of “weak” disposition.

The Fruitvale school is decidedly a health school”

Oakland Tribune May 13, 1913

It was constructed at the rear of the playground, one hundred feet from the existing main building.

“Fruitvale School. The fresh air school, 5-18-13.” Negative shows a group of children, boys and girls, posing in front of what looks like an enclosed porch on the back of the building. Two adult women and a man are standing with the children on a set of stairs leading up to this room.
OMCA

The square, the wood-framed building was raised to prevent underfloor dampness.

Fruitvale School. Saluting the flag, 5-18-13.” Negative shows a group of children with their right hands to their foreheads. One girl is standing in front of them holding an American flag on a pole.
OMCA

Each of the sides had a different treatment to reflect the sun. The southern side had tall windows that, when open, didn’t seem to be enclosed. The east side was opened to the elements with only half of a wall. A screen protected them from insects.  In case of storms awnings can be pulled down to protect the students.

Fruitvale School.” Negative shows school children hanging out the windows of the school, posing for the photo. A male teacher is standing on the ground outside the windows looking up at the first floor windows filled with the students.
OMCA

The school was to be the first in a series of open-air schools installed on the grounds of Oakland’s existing city schools.

Objections

Fruitvale School. The outdoors brought indoors 5-18-13.” 
OMCA

There was some objection in opening the school, from the parents of the selected children and the children themselves. The parents did not want their children singled out; the children worried they would be teased as being “sick.” These fears were realized, and the teachers struggled with how to deal with the repeated taunts

Oakland Tribune May 13, 1913

The idea of the open-air classroom was incorporated in many of the new schools built in the 1920s. I don’t know how long the Fruitvale Open Air school was open. I will update if I find more information.

More Info:

Growing Children Out of Doors: California’s Open-Air Schools and Children’s Health, 1907-1917 – Camille Shamble Los Gatos, California – May 2017

Open air school – Wikipedia

Collection of Photos – OMCA 

The End

Author:

II have been an Oakland history buff since going on an Oakland Heritage Alliance Tour of the Fernwood Neighborhood in the Montclair District of Oakland, in the mid-'80s. On that tour, I learned that there use to be a train (Sacramento Northern) that ran through Montclair in the early 1900s and that people lived the area as early as 1860s — been hooked ever since. Since then, I have spent a lot of time looking into the history of Montclair, and I have learned a lot. I feel this will be the best way to get it out of my head and onto paper.

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