In 1973, The Florida Legislature mandated that in order to teach one of the newly installed kindergarten classes, a teacher holding an elementary teaching certificate would need six semester hours of Early Childhood Education.
Jacksonville University offered the first Early childhood Class in Duval County in the First Summer Session, 1973 (EDU-421-G). Most of those enrolled were upper grade teachers (3rd-6th grades) who wanted and needed experience with young children.
The graduate students recruited nine children, three and four years old; Jacksonville University permitted the use of a classroom, F-17; the students furnished, staffed and taught the children for two Jacksonville University summer sessions.
The University’s Maintenance Department worked hard to convert the classroom, and also, the classroom adjoining F-17 into what they dubbed “The Little People’s School.” The title stuck!
Parents asked that the school continue into the fall and agreed to pay tuition to support a teacher. A session for two year olds was added.
In 1985 Jacksonville University needed the Little People’s School space in Founder’s Building for Information Technology. The school moved, for one year, to a classroom in Council, C-101. It also had the use of a nearby conference room.
In 1986 Little People’s School moved to what had been the School of Business. This was shared with NROTC. At that time, The Maintenance Department converted the building into a “little red school house.” After two years NROTC moved into its own building and the Little People’s School had the use of the entire building. It needed continued upkeep. The President (Dr. Frances Kinne) persuaded Mr. Harold K. (Bud) Smith to provide a maintenance endowment which he did in memory of his first wife, Wilma Smith. Little People’s School became Wilma’s Little People’s School.”
In 2002-2003 the location of The Little Red Schoolhouse was needed for the new Davis College of Business. The present outstanding Wilma’s Little People’s School facility was ready for occupancy in 2003.
For over 48 years Wilma’s Little People’s School has been a part of the unique experiences offered by a generous Jacksonville University community-the administration, faculty, staff and students, plus a caring and attentive parent community. This has always provided a strong support system. Such support has made it possible to survive, thrive and offer a developmentally appropriate education choice for two, three, and four year old children. Wilma’s Little People’s School has an amazing group of “alums”!