To meet the growing population on the island, in 1926 Pinellas County opened the Sunshine School located between 23rd and 24th Avenues in Pass-a-Grille. It was considered a central location for most of the children and soon became a unique teaching facility. The original school had four classrooms, an auditorium, a small office and clinic, bathrooms, kitchen and screened porch. The first classes were small enough to have two grades in one room! The school underwent several additions and expansion during its existence.
Classes were often held outside at tables under thatched roofs or on the beach by the Gulf of Mexico. Swimming lessons became a part of the physical ed classes all of which were held outside.
The school soon was named a "State of Happiness", with its classrooms named - "Healthville", "Workville", "Contentment Town" and "Clear Conscience City". Hand-painted murals depicting the schoolrooms in the auditorium helped create a family and neighborhood atmosphere.
Over its 49-year existence, there were 12 principals and 41 PTA and Parents Club presidents. An annual fish-broil was started to buy school supplies and was considered the "prime event of the year". Local fisherman and boat owner, Capt. Kenneth Merry was the chef for the broil, cooking fresh mullet over his bedsprings and mesquite wood grille. Fun games and booths were added over the years. This event is still carried on yearly at the Gulf Beaches Elementary School.
In 1975, Pinellas County deemed the property too costly to maintain and the school closed, transferring many students up to the Gulf Beaches school. For the next nine years the island community sought a buyer to preserve and use the property but despite huge efforts, the buildings were demolished in 1984.
Artifacts, a historic scrapbook featuring all the class photos, slate from one of the original blackboards signed by visiting former students, color photos of the murals and school history can be found on exhibit at the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, 115 Tenth Ave., St. Pete Beach.