Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School’s South Campus has been having class all year long in their new state of the art facilities. “That something people always say, ‘I had no idea you guys were open or I had no idea you guys were here!’ But, yes, we’ve been here all school year,” Frances “Boo” Kay, Head of Schools and employee of the school for 51 year, said laughing.
The new “Upper School” educates students in seventh through ninth grade with a new grade level added each year until 12th. Nestled within a forested area off of North Gray Market Drive, Kay said her vision was to provide students a park-like setting to learn in.
“I really believed from the very beginning that you can teach a relaxed, happy person much faster than you can teach anyone who is uptight, worried or anxious.”
The school indeed met its goal of a serene park-like atmosphere. The property encompasses 40 acres of forest with the first 12 already cleared and developed for phase one of the school.
A 50-foot tree perimeter lines the boundaries of the school, purposely secluding it from the traffic of Big Lake Road and many other aspects make it a unique and idyllic setting for education.
The back of the campus features a large, stocked pond where students can fish, kayak or simply enjoy the view and plants native to Louisiana decorate the campus, with something always in bloom. Even the animals appreciate the preservation efforts as a variety of birds, deer and wildlife can be seen at different times, throughout the campus, Kay said.
While the natural beauty is a wonderful feature of the school, it actually serves one of the school’s larger missions. “We are really focused on the environment. Every time they come outside, they can feel that. You’re not just locked in one spot all day. We’re teaching environmental science by watching it.”
A spacious, open commons area greets students and visitors when they enter the school with large windows providing a clear view of the surroundings. “People always said when visiting the North campus, ‘It feels different. There’s some ambiance.’ They feel like there’s community and warmth and I wanted to be sure we had that here too. We’re sort of one in this particular room,” Kay said pointing to the space that also serves as a library, chapel and space for students to gather.
The Upper School has no hallways, and all buildings are connected with large open breezeways, perfect for rainy spring days. Enjoying the outdoors is not just limited to times of transition, rather students are encouraged to make the most of the scenery even during class time.
“They can have class out here, art, come with their computers, plug in and sit out here,” Candace Marque, dean of academics, said pointing to sturdy outdoor furniture placed along the corridor.
Each classroom is equipped with windows and doors on both walls allowing teachers ample viewing room to watch students if they choose work in the outdoors setting, she added. “Students can read, sit in the grass, really, take these chairs anywhere. They have a nice view and it’s pleasant.”
Each of the classes features state-of-the- art technology like drop-down electrical outlets throughout the art room, smart boards and modern, chemical lab equipment. Each of the classrooms connect to one another, again, intentionally. “It’s a collaborative effort to show real life experiences that we teach,” Kay said referencing how math and science students worked together to determine what size pump would fit the school’s pond.
While walking from building to building, the sounds of nature abound creating a peaceful stroll from one place to another. Kay said students, too, enjoy the freedom of the learning in the open space. “When they walk on the campus, they get to play and run and just be relaxed. That’s really the best way to describe it. And then too, we take a long lunch, so they can be outside of the classroom and that can just lower your blood pressure a whole lot.”
The Upper School’s extracurricular classrooms are outfitted with the same high-tech, intentional features as the core curriculum. A full-size choir room, band room and gymnasium are features, Kay and Marque were proud to show off, but not before, pointing out the brick pavers that line that gymnasium entrance purchased by friends of the school.
“It’s a community here! The school started in 1953 and we have great people who are still connected to the school, like me!”
A full-size basketball court fit for any sized team is located inside of the gymnasium which seats 450-500 people. To accommodate the new high school students, the school joined the Association of Christian Educators of Louisiana league allowing athletes to compete against similarly sized Christian schools across the state.
“So we still travel, have district and all those things. And we’re going to play in that league until we’re bigger and ready to move on,” Marque said.
Athletes also have the opportunity to train in the school’s weight room and get ready for games in their state of art locker rooms. “My son has since left EDS, but when he saw this he was like, ‘Why did you have to wait and build this after I was gone,’” Marque said laughing.
The gymnasium also marks space for the next phases of the South campus. A green field for soccer and P.E. will be developed this summer right outside of the gym’s back door, Kay said. Eventually a road and performing arts building will also be adjacent to the facility as the school grows and expands into its future.
To learn more visit www.episcopaldayschool.org or call 337-433-5246 to schedule a tour.