In 1875, the first settlers came to what is known today as Eustis. The first school in Eustis was taught by Mrs. A. S. Perry in her home in the Oklawaha Hotel. After a short time, the need for a schoolhouse was realized. Settlers donated the materials and the labor to build a one-room school. Fourteen students were required to be able to hire a teacher. This presented a problem since there were only thirteen school age children. Mr. G. D. Clifford, wanting to have a school of good standing enrolled his almost four year old daughter, Lottie. She became Mrs. Lottie Clifford Taylor whose home is a historical landmark in Eustis.
Students moved into a two-story framed schoolhouse on February 1, 1887. After several years, the frame school building burned, and a brick school was built on the site of the present day Methodist Church. This building continued to be used as the High School until it was condemned for safety reasons in 1940. A school was built on Citrus Avenue in 1924 and was named Eustis Elementary School. It was constructed of concrete, tile, wood lath, and plaster. The exterior was covered in cement, which was characteristic of buildings in Florida in the 1920s era. Students in Grades 1 through 6 began using the building in the 1925 school year. Mr. Gaddee was the principal.
When the High School was condemned, all students in Grades 1 through 12 attended school at Eustis Elementary. During this time, Julian Markham was supervising principal for both the high school and elementary students. In 1944, Eustis High School was opened, and the high school students left Eustis Elementary. Mrs. Pearl Achford, a first-grade teacher, became the building principal in 1945 -1947. After World War II, Memory Martin was the supervising principal for the Eustis schools.
H. T. Slaton became the first full time principal at Eustis Elementary School in the late 1940s. His leadership as principal lasted for 19 years until he retired in 1966. During this time the lunchroom and kitchen were in the west basement. The east basement had a stage and was used for plays, musical programs, and meetings. Mr. Slaton did not have a secretary, so he handled the office, the clinic, and even helped serve food in the lunchroom. His daughter said that he took the weekly lunchroom money home on Fridays to be counted, rolled, and put in the bank on Saturdays.
Eustis Elementary School was bursting at the seams in the early 1950s. Eustis Heights Elementary was built in 1954, and the students were divided between the two schools. Two additional buildings were added to Eustis Elementary in 1960. One was a new cafeteria, and the other had four primary classrooms.
John McLaughlin, who was an assistant principal at Eustis High School, became Eustis Elementary principal for the 1966-1967 school year. Walter E. Kinney became the next principal from 1967 to 1978 when he retired. David Treadway was the next principal at Eustis Elementary. During his tenure, classroom walls and windows were renovated. Carpet was placed in the hallways and some classrooms. Mr. Treadway retired in 1987. Shirley Whitmore was appointed as the next principal in 1987. She was well acquainted with the school because Mrs. Whitmore had been the first Guidance Counselor on staff from 1974-1984. Eustis Elementary reached its highest enrollment of over 600 students. Seminole Springs Elementary was soon opened and the population of students became more manageable for the size of the school.
In 1995, Robert Zeilinger was transferred to Eustis Elementary as principal. His tenure lasted eight years before he retired in 2003. The new addition of eight classrooms in the back of the school helped clear the basement classrooms. Doug Kroulik came to the school as principal in the summer of 2003. Mr. Kroulik was the principal when the school celebrated its 80th birthday! Eustis Elementary School continues to grow, as well as the students that have studied and learned on its campus.
This history is based upon the recollections of former principals, teachers, and students who proudly say that they were a part of Eustis Elementary School. Facts were also found in the book Through Schoolhouse Doors, published in 1983, which is found in the school library.