Educators rang in Seminole County’s first day of school – literally – when they clanged the 1902 tower bell Monday at UCF’s Public History Center in Sanford.

The bell, which is high above the city’s original high school and can be heard for blocks around the historic-district neighborhood, was sounded by José Fernandez, dean of UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities; Walt Griffin, Seminole County’s school superintendent; and Christine Dalton, Sanford’s community planner and historic preservation officer. The ceremony was held to symbolize the new school year and the collaboration of the three organizations at the center.

“The University of Central Florida prides itself on being America’s partnership university. Our partnership with the Seminole County Public Schools helps to meet the educational needs and historical interests of the local community,” Fernandez said at the ceremony, adding that 4,000 students from kindergarten through high school visited the center last school year to learn history through hands-on programs. “I am also pleased to see that through our partnership, we are providing UCF students with opportunities to apply classroom theory and knowledge to practice in the learning laboratory that the Public History Center offers.”

Fernandez credited Rose Beiler, the center’s director, for developing curriculum, guiding field trips, conducting research in the building’s archives and collections, and producing engaging exhibits. The center also holds workshops and programs for the community.

“As the bell rings in the beginning of the school year we are reminded of all the ways education marks important beginnings through our lives,” said graduate student Katie Kelley. “It is through education that we explore our world as children, set the course of our futures as adolescents, and embark on exciting new career paths as adults. This is what the Public History Center represents to me – not only the building’s history teaching generations of children in Sanford, but also its present as a resource for learning at every stage of life.”

After the bell-ringing ceremony, the center hosted an open house and tours of the building that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and served as the school district’s Student Museum before UCF leased the property two years ago.

The center has an original 1902 classroom with a picture of then-President Teddy Roosevelt, a pioneer room with a log cabin and tools; a Timucua room that represents a 1,200-year-old village; Georgetown and Crooms High School exhibits that feature the city’s African-American community, and other displays. Behind the museum is a demonstration garden with Florida native plants, vegetables and flowers grown at the turn of the last century, antique roses, field crops and other horticultural displays.