When middle school students of Tampa Preparatory return to school next week, they will see entirely remodeled classrooms and a central common area.
The middle school division of the private school for grades 6-12 has undergone a complete renovation since it let out in May — at a price tag of more than $1 million.
The transformation was done to create an Active Learning Environment where teachers and students will work together in small groups. Each will use an iPad that each student must own, a teaching method introduced in the 2013-14 school year.
“Students need to be able collaborate and problem solve,” said Joe Fenlon, director of middle school, which has about 175 students. “At most jobs, you have to be able to collaborate and problem solve. If they feel comfortable at the earliest age, they will be leaders in college and in the business world.”
Sixth-grade students are on the first floor; seventh- and eighth-graders on the second floor. The floor plans are basically alike with classrooms on the outside walls and an open central area.
All furniture has casters so the pieces are movable, and rooms have large windows that capture natural light. Overhead lighting has been changed to complement the use of iPads.
“When we moved in here 12 years ago, we were state-of-the-art with 25 computer hubs,” Fenlon said, adding that the computer lab has been removed. A much smaller area will house 10 computers for students who need one.
Chad Lewis, the school’s director of technology, said teachers will have two projectors in their rooms so they can teach from either end of the room. The central area also will be equipped with projectors and special sound systems.
“You can’t escape learning here,” Lewis said, with a laugh.
One room will use a “green screen” like in the movies where students will be able to video themselves with different backgrounds. For example, they could give oral geography reports and appear as if they’re actually in other countries.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the school, which focuses on high achievement in academics, community service and athletics. Tuition is around $20,000 a year.
“Our faculty has embraced the technology culture,” Fenlon said. “The thought process was not about the technology but how to best serve our theology.”
Tampa Preparatory is at 727 W. Cass St.