Episcopal High School Opens Two New Academic Halls | Schools

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Episcopal High School Opens Two New Academic Halls

Episcopal High School has completed the first phase of its campus master plan expansion project by opening the school’s two new $4 million academic halls. Coinciding with the Christian holiday Epiphany, a dedication ceremony for Parks and Lastinger Halls was held today complete with a student procession, choral performances and tours of the new facilities.

Special guests included Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, Bishop of Florida; Mayor John Peyton and former teacher Victoria Register-Freeman, who read a commissioned poem.

“We want to provide the best possible learning environment for our students. While our riverfront campus has grown over the past 43 years, we have outgrown our classroom space,” said Dale Regan, Episcopal High School’s head of school. “The new, smart facilities incorporate the latest in classroom technology, enabling us to offer the region’s most innovative teaching methods.”

"The upgrading of facilities symbolically represents an uplifting in curriculum and teaching. At their basis, these are just classrooms, but they represent how Episcopal and our teaching are growing. The buildings are a physical manifestation of where we want teaching to go,” said Bob Shanner, Episcopal's academic dean. “Researchers are learning that there's no ‘smart’ or ‘not smart’, but there are different types of intelligences. Since all brains don't process in the same ways, we should not teach in all the same ways.”

According to Shanner, one goal is to encourage cross-curricular teaching for a blending of departments. “It’s about expanding our perspectives – how you can infuse the teaching of one subject into the teaching of another. Colleges are developing cross curricular majors, with many allowing students to develop their own majors to better prepare them for what they will face in the world and professionally,” he explains. “It allows them to become better students even as we become better teachers.”

At the dedication ceremony, Regan expressed gratitude to the alumni, community, faculty and staff that helped fund the project at a time when most area schools are facing cutbacks. “I applaud everyone who made these new buildings possible. In spite of dire economic times, so many alumni and community leaders realized the importance of looking to the future and focusing on the school’s long-term vision,” she said.

Named for revered Episcopal Diocese of Florida leader and one of the school’s founders, the late Rev. Bob Parks, and longtime Episcopal High School supporters, the Delores and Allen Lastinger family, the two new buildings encompass nearly 13,000 square feet of classroom space separated by an 8,000-square-foot courtyard.

Each building will house 12, 900-square-foot classrooms, double the size of current classrooms. Episcopal will still implement its policy of 18 students maximum per classroom. With the addition of the new space, a wall is being knocked out in two of the extra classrooms for conversion to another science lab.

To determine which classrooms would move to the new buildings, Episcopal faculty submitted written proposals detailing how they would use the rooms to implement their curriculums. All grades and disciplines (except fine arts and science) will be represented in the new buildings, including French, Spanish, math, theology, English and history. 

Designed for educational innovation, the new classrooms will house multiple subjects and grades. “Our goal is to provide our teachers with a dynamic environment so they can customize their teaching and interaction with students. The new classroom environment allows for creative seating arrangements and emphasizes group learning by letting teachers facilitate learning rather than simply stand and lecture,” added Regan.  

According to Shanner, the rooms are intentionally designed to make traditional teaching physically impossible. White and cork boards cover three sides of the room, so there is no “front” of the classroom and teachers’ desks are situated in the corner of the room to preclude “teaching from the desk.” Instead of student desks, each room has 16 small tables on wheels that can be configured to best facilitate learning for any given day.

The buildings were also designed to integrate today’s latest technology with numerous power outlets for laptops and handheld electronics, with large conduits for electronic wiring to make way for future technological advances.

“The traditional classroom is a blackboard with a teacher lecturing. Today's student doesn't learn or want to learn that way. They are used to multitasking, quickly changing stimuli and being interactive so we need to change from passive to interactive learning,” added Shanner, who points out that teaching methods vary depending on the type of technology incorporated into the classroom.

“Technology also allows ‘class time’ to extend to the student's home at night, when they can participate in online conversations. So when class starts, the ‘conversation’ has already taken place and face time can be spent on other things,” said Shanner. Technology also allows student groups to work on projects together without having to meet after school and to interact academically with other students who aren’t in their class periods.


Parks and Lastinger Halls were designed by Richard Skinner Associates Architects and built by Elkins Constructors, Inc. of Jacksonville. The buildings incorporate columns and Jeffersonian arches, outdoor hallways and second story open decks with views of the St Johns River and downtown Jacksonville. The buildings were constructed in less than a year; ground was broken in May after a cornerstone dedication in April.


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