Rockdale Public School has a rich and storied history. The inception of Rockdale Public School originated from a group of Methodist families who erected their first building, made out of saplings and calico, with a tea-tree roof and earthen floor in 1855.
In 1858, they moved to an area on the south side of Bay Street and eastward from the Princes Highway. On this site, a rectangular chapel was built using local sandstone cut from the hill. A Wesleyan day-school was founded which was known as Rocky Point Wesleyan School. Historically, this day-school was the root of Rockdale Public School.
The first schoolmaster, John Andrews, took charge in 1861 and remained until 1882 when the school closed in response to the legislation of 1880, “The Public Instruction Act”. At the beginning of 1883, Rockdale Public School re-opened.
For two years, 1883 and 1884, John Andrews continued as schoolmaster of Rocky Point Public School. But after only two years, Rockdale Public School was recommended for closure by the District Inspector. The supposed reason for closure was “want of attendance”, but in actuality headmasters and teachers from neighbouring schools feared that the presence of Rockdale Public School threatened their enrolments. Thus, Rockdale Public School unfortunately had to close down.
Within two years of Rockdale’s closure, the first purchase of land for a school site was made at Rockdale by the Department of Instruction. This was the first of nine lots on the present school site. For the next few years, numerous Rockdale residents petitioned for a school at Rockdale. Thus in January 1888, the Inspector recommended construction and later that year two site extensions were obtained: Lots 19 – 25 and Lots 10 – 13. Tenders were let, to include a teacher’s residence, and the school was expected to be ready for opening at the beginning of 1889.
When the school opened, the Headmaster was John Herlihy. By March 1889, his school had a staff of six teachers and over 400 children in three rooms. By November, a second building had been completed. In August 1889, it was decided to establish an Infants Department and separate two-storey accommodation of two large rooms facing Pitt Street was completed in July 1890. When John Herlihy left Rockdale in October 1889, the school had an enrolment of over 500 children.
Rockdale was now a three-department school of boys, girls and infants. From January 1890, Rockdale became a Superior School which retained pupils of Secondary School age as Central Schools do today. It continued as a Superior Public School into the second decade of the twentieth century.