Four of the seven schools now in the Dr. Phillips community were built on land originally owned by Dr. Phillips Charities ... Dr. Phillips and Bay Meadows Elementary, Southwest Middle School, and a portion of Dr. Phillips High School. The first of these, Dr. Phillips Elementary, was actually built by Dr. Phillips, Inc. on land owned by The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation.
When the area began to develop, The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation encouraged Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) to consider a school site designated within the Orange Tree development, but the district did not have state permission to build an elementary school. It took bargaining with OCPS, and later, a trip to Washington, D.C. by officers of The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and Dr. Phillips, Inc. to persuade the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to allow Dr. Phillips, Inc. to build an elementary school on land owned by The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation. Although Dr. Phillips, Inc. was at the time a licensed general contractor, it was a related organization to The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and as such a "disqualified person" with which the Foundation could not transact business without special exception by the IRS. Recognizing that the area needed an elementary school, Dr. Phillips Charities argued successfully with both OCPS and the IRS. In fact, to secure OCPS approval, they offered to build the school to the state specifications at actual cost with no profit, as long as OCPS would staff it with educators and administrators after completion, and agree to purchase it once the State of Florida requirements to allow OCPS to build a school were met. The process and negotiations were complicated but, in the end, Dr. Phillips Elementary School became a reality. It opened its doors in 1979 with all of the necessary State of Florida requirements met, and ownership of the school was trasferred from the Foundation to OCPS.
Palm Lake Elementary opened in August of 1987 to accommodate additional growth in the Dr. Phillips community. Later Bay Meadows Elementary was built on Apopka Vineland Road to meet the needs of new families moving into developments south of Sand Lake Road. It was built on land that was originally owned by Dr. Phillips Charities. More recently, Sand Lake Elementary was built to provide even more capacity needed in the area.
During the 1980's, middle school students who lived in the Dr. Phillips area were divided between Lakeview Middle School and Westridge Middle School. Both facilities were overcrowded and the need for a new school was evident. As a result, the remaining 20 acres of the original 40 acre site set aside on Dr. Phillips Boulevard for the high school was purchased by OCPS at appraised value. Later, because the property was not as large as had become the standard for middle school sites, the school required a two story design. Southwest Middle School opened in August of 1991. Eight years later, Chain of Lakes Middle School opened to serve the northern portion of the Dr. Phillips Community.
As part of the master plan for the Dr. Phillips community, land was also set aside to provide a high school. Forty acres on Dr. Phillips Boulevard were reserved and held for many years, with the intent for the land to be sold to the school district when population growth supported the need for a high school.
Meanwhile, Bel-Aire Homes approached The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation about this vacant acreage to expand the Sand Lake Hills subdivision. When asked about its intention for the site, OCPS told the Foundation: "There will never be a high school in the Dr. Phillips area. Possibly there will be a need for a middle school that would require 20 acres." As a result, the Foundation agreed to sell 20 acres of the site to Bel-Aire, keeping 20 acres in reserve for a middle-school site (which later became Southwest Middle School).
A year later, part of Orange Tree (land originally owned by Dr. Phillips Charities) and other adjacent property equaling about 50 acres were acquired by the school district at a higher cost than the original site set aside by the Foundation on Dr. Phillips Boulevard. The site purchased on Turkey Lake Road was annexed into the City of Orlando, and the high school was designed as a state-of-the-art facility for about 2,400 students. Dr. Phillips High School opened in 1987 to much fanfare --- and over capacity, with enrollment of about 3,000.
Of interesting note, Dr. Phillips High School almost was not named as it is today because of an earlier decision made by the Orange County School Board to stop naming schools after individuals. However, a convincing presentation by then Dr. Phillips Charities President, Jim Hinson, to the school board resulted in the designation of the high school as Dr. Phillips High School - an institution named after a thriving community, not after an individual.