Babcock Neighborhood Schools unveiled the school of the future during a preview of the new Babcock High School on Aug. 5. The school boasts state-of-the-art technology and innovative design focused on enhancing its best-in-class-education concepts through collaborative, project-based learning and real-world experiences for both students and teachers.
Babcock High School officially opened to students on Monday, Aug. 8.
“We’re excited to give our high school students a beautiful, innovative environment in this new building they can make their own,” said Shannon Treece, the founding principal of Babcock Ranch’s elementary school and recently named executive director for the growing charter school system. “Many of the students have been with us since day one. This space not only symbolizes our bright future ahead, but the possibilities and dreams that will be fostered for the next generation of leaders.”
Until this year, Babcock Neighborhood School taught kindergarten through eighth grade in the main building, with high school classes housed in modular classrooms elsewhere on the campus. The completion of the two-story, 45,889-square-foot Babcock High School transitions students in grades six through 11 to the new building. Amanda Sanford will serve as the high school’s first principal. Grade 12 will be added during the 2023-24 academic year.
“For students and staff, it’s very fitting that the mascot of Babcock High School is the Trailblazers,” said Sanford. “I’m looking forward to them taking ownership of this school and creating a culture of school spirit.”
With a 650-student capacity, Babcock High School has 26 classrooms, a Main Street hallway, the Collaborative Lobby and over 3,000 square feet of flexible and adaptable learning spaces. Instead of an assigned homeroom, teachers work from two centrally located “hives” overlooking student workspaces in the Assembly, an open two-story area designed for working together or individually. Teachers also reserve specific classrooms based on their daily lesson plan.
Two flexible quads accommodate up to 134 students for lectures and large group lessons and are reconfigurable into two to four smaller classrooms. Integrated technology, large screen monitors and sound systems operate in tandem or individually.
Babcock High School’s emphasis on technology includes tablets for every student, a PC computer lab supporting instruction in coding and cybersecurity, and a media room equipped with a green screen and Mac computer workstations for graphic design and video production. As part of the computer lab, an on-demand IT Service Desk provides help for students who want to expand their technology skills.
The school’s art room and adjoining Make Tank provide more than 2,000 square feet of creative space with a kiln and an expansive patio. The Make Tank was also designed to provide an environment that engages students with a variety of tools that span from woodworking to 3-D printing.
“Babcock High School represents the school of tomorrow for the community of tomorrow,” said Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, developer of Babcock Ranch. “We put so much thought into creating spaces complementing the project-based learning curriculum and how students work and learn best as well as sourcing environmentally friendly building materials. The schools use Babcock Ranch as a living lab, with many lessons focusing on its sustainability and role as America’s first solar-powered hometown.”
The opening of Babcock High School coincides with completion of the neighboring Field House, a public building for school athletic programs, theatrical performances and community functions. The space will also serve as the Southwest Florida Regional Emergency Shelter for up to 1,343 occupants.
The new high school serves a growing population of students from Babcock Ranch, where builders have completed more than 1,800 new homes, as well as children from the surrounding region. The K-6 Babcock Neighborhood School opened for the 2017-18 school year, adding a grade level each year as students progressed through the system.
“We had about 600 kids at the start of the 2021-22 school year, and this year we’re starting at the 800-student mark,” said Jennifer Languell, a BNS board member and a local green building expert who, as Babcock Ranch’s green building and sustainable development advisor, directed construction of the high school and Field House. “It can be a challenge to add 200 new students a year but we’re very methodical about that growth to make sure we keep our culture of a neighborhood feel and community school. It’s a delicate balance.”
Construction of the high school and the 40,600-square-foot Field House on Babcock Ranch’s education campus started in July 2021. The Field House’s gym spans 26,695 square feet of floor space with three full-size basketball courts for school sports, student assemblies, graduation ceremonies and community events for up to 2,500. With coaches’ offices, dedicated referee locker rooms and a first aid room, it meets all requirements for hosting tournaments.
The Field House also has a 960-square-foot performance stage, a fitness center, large cafeteria and locker rooms. Built to International Code Council 500 as an emergency storm shelter, the building also supports community programs and rental venues for private functions.
Christopher Fennell will transition as the new principal at Babcock Neighborhood School, which welcomes a student population of incoming kindergarten through fifth graders outnumbering the combined enrollment at the middle and high schools. Both Fennell and Sanford were assistant principals under Treece.
“I’m excited that we have this dream administration team,” said Treece, whose new role with the charter schools is comparable to a school superintendent. “I loved being the principal, but the role morphed. It’s been a great journey, and now we’re at the next phase to take the school system to a new level in this great community.”
Babcock Ranch, ranked No. 10 on prominent real estate advisory firm RCLCO’s midyear list of the 50 fastest-selling master-planned communities in the United States, adheres to the philosophy that smart growth and sustainability work hand in hand. Half of the town’s footprint is set aside as greenways, parks and expansive lakes, providing recreation and scenic backdrops for Babcock Ranch’s homes and the Founder’s Square downtown district. Built to Florida Green Building Coalition standards, homes emphasize energy and water conservation, innovation and have a full gig of fiber-optic connectivity.
For more information about Southwest Florida’s new hometown, located just northeast of Fort Myers off Babcock Ranch Road/State Road 31, visit the Discovery Center at 42850 Crescent Loop in Babcock Ranch, call 877-709-6620, or visit www.BabcockRanch.com.