Episcopal schools become one family

A marriage of three beloved Jacksonville schools, long awaited, has finally taken place.

Students who attend St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School and the Beaches Episcopal School are now part of the wider student body of Episcopal School of Jacksonville. The mergers have been planned since 2018.

As one school, students and families will have the opportunity to attend events on all three campuses, such as special events and summer camps, according to information released by Episcopal School of Jacksonville. Students, coaches, and teachers from each campus will share in activities and resources across the Four Pillars of Academics, Spiritual Life, Fine Arts and Athletics. 

“The mergers advance the passion and commitment each campus has to quality education, which benefits our students and families, as well as the faculty and staff, and the greater Jacksonville community,” according to information released by the school. 

The main thing students will notice when they come back to their campuses on Aug. 11 is that names of their schools have changed. The main campus is now Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Munnerlyn Campus and continues to serve grades six through 12, St. Mark’s is now Episcopal School of Jacksonville, St. Mark’s Campus and will continue to serve age 1 through sixth grade, and the Beaches Episcopal School is now the Beaches Campus, serving pre-K through sixth grades.

Sign announcing the opening of St. Mark’s Episcopal School in 1970
Sign announcing the opening of St. Mark’s Episcopal School in 1970

For St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School in Ortega, the merger means more resources, more support, and more enrichment for its students, with the same Christian nurturing feel. Other than that, there won’t be many physical changes, said Beville Anderson, dean of faculty for St. Mark’s. The changes will instead be felt in improved resources and instructional support. Teachers from higher grade levels will be available for enrichment and the school will have access to more resources than a school of its size normally would.

“We are so excited about the merger, for many reasons,” Anderson said. “We’ve had a great relationship with Episcopal School of Jacksonville for a long time now, many of our families have enjoyed having their families at both schools. Also, it’s really their mission fits our mission very well. We are very excited. We feel like it is a wonderful gift to our families to be able to embrace and engage with Episcopal.”

“It’s a huge advantage in that we have access to resources that a school of our size would not have access to,” she added.

Beaches Episcopal School Chapel, 1960
Beaches Episcopal School Chapel, 1960

Beaches Episcopal School agreed to the merger in 2018. In June 2019, The Rev. Adam Greene, head of school for Episcopal School of Jacksonville and chairman of the Board of Trustees for St. Marks, issued a statement that Episcopal was entering into negotiations for a merger with St. Mark’s. The negotiations were finalized in October after approval by both schools’ board of trustees, the vestry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Foundation Board of Trustees and the Right Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, Bishop of Florida and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida.

The schools were founded around the same time and share similar missions.

Episcopal School was established in 1966 and its 56-acre campus includes a 28-acre estate once belonging to the Packer-Cummings family. Upon Mary Packer-Cummings death in 1912, she willed the land to St. John’s Cathedral, which used it to open a boys’ home in 1921. The home for needy children closed in 1953 as a result of financial issues. Some 10 years later, a planning committee began the process of establishing an Episcopalian high school, with the first class graduating in 1970. Current enrollment is 890 students in Grades 6-12.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School was founded in 1970 as an outreach mission of the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. The school was originally created as a non-profit Christian school, located on the grounds of the church, with the purpose of the school to provide children with the finest quality education and citizenship training, given by dedicated teachers within a strong Christian environment. The founders of the school were committed to this concept of providing a balanced educational program for the spiritual, intellectual, social and emotional growth of each child. The Rev. Robert Clingman was the rector of St. Mark’s at the time of the school’s founding. Its six-acre campus is near the St. Johns River.

The first student body at Episcopal School of Jacksonville in 1970
The first student body at Episcopal School of Jacksonville in 1970

“These two mergers are the first of their kind in recent Episcopal schools’ history,” said The Rev. Adam Greene, Episcopal’s Head of School. “We look forward to honoring the histories and traditions of St. Mark’s and Beaches Episcopal as we become one school, and we are grateful to both St. Paul’s-by-the-Sea and St. Mark’s churches for their stewardship over the past five decades.”

By Jennifer Edwards
Resident Community News

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