By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
Bishop Lynch High School is expanding once again.
Construction crews are busily putting the final touches on the school’s new west wing, which features a new main entrance, the largest courtyard on campus, five Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) labs, a new campus store, and a slew of administrative offices.
The 15,000-square-foot building marks the completion of the fourth of five phases of the “Veritas Project,” a multi-million dollar construction and renovation effort intended to expand and reshape the school’s campus in order to address 21st century educational challenges. Last spring, a larger portion of the west wing opened and now houses 19 classrooms.
Bishop Lynch president Chris Rebuck said the new buildings and renovations have injected a sense of excitement not just among students and faculty, but alumni as well.
“I get a unique perspective because I’m on the road talking to alums a lot,” Rebuck said. “They can’t believe how far their school has come. For the kids, it’s like Christmas every year for them because they get to see something new.”
Rebuck said the architecture of the campus is symbolic in that the new entrance will now face west and feature the downtown Dallas skyline, a gesture he said was meant to symbolize the school’s commitment to its East Dallas community and engender a sense of leadership and responsibility among the student body.
The school’s east, central and west courtyards were also constructed in a way that conjures up elements of the Catholic faith in the minds of students. The east courtyard features three trees, evoking the belief in the Holy Trinity; the central courtyard features seven trees, signifying the belief in the seven sacraments; the new west courtyard features 12 trees, one for each of the apostles.
New security measures also feature heavily in the new building. Bishop Lynch Chief Financial Officer Jaynie Poff said with the opening of the west entrance, the school will now have only one entry point for visitors. All doors going into the school are controlled by a card reader and are accessible only to those with security cards. All staff, faculty and students have been given school-issued security cards, but in the case of students, Poff said, administrators can restrict their access as needed.
Rebuck said the real game-changer for the school, however, will likely come with the introduction of four small and one large TEAL labs. The interactive learning spaces, based on models created by three physics professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are intended to place a greater emphasis on collaborative learning through the use of new technologies. The four smaller spaces will hold up to 24 students, while the large lab can handle 50 kids.
“This is going to be a space where students will be allowed to take on the curriculum in a way that is unique,” Rebuck said. “It’s going to put teachers in a position to be more of a collaborator.”
Each lab will feature a number of pods for teams of five students. Every pod will have its own flat-screen television, enabling students from one pod to share information with another. The walls in each lab are also coated in a material called Idea Paint, which allows for the use of dry-erase markers on the walls. Instructors will also have access to a touch-screen monitor as they lead students through collaborative exercises. Rebuck said he anticipates classes that will feature cross-discipline assignments.
German teacher Beth Burau, who also serves as the school’s instructional technology team coordinator recently gave a tour of the classroom to a handful of students.
“This is terribly exciting,” Burau said. “It’s a great opportunity to have our students learn some of those 21st-century technology skills that are important, not just in education, but in their future jobs.”
Junior Zach Mazor said while the TEAL concept is new to him, he is anxious to see it work.
“I love it,” Mazor said. “It’s completely different from what we have right now and it looks like it could offer new learning opportunities for us.”
While administrators are scheduled to open the new wing to visitors and students on April 18, a dedication ceremony is planned for April 28.