A unique school within Clay County, R.C. Bannerman Learning Center (BLC), offers programs such as an interactive garden and a teen pregnancy program.
The center, located at 608 Mill St. in Green Cove Springs, serves around 350 students on average, per year.
The center is open to grades 7-12 and encourages hands-on learning through its school garden, as well as offering a teen pregnancy program where expecting young mothers can work toward their diploma, while enrolling their infants in the school’s daycare.
A majority of the students enrolled at BLC have a record of discipline, behavioral issues or an inability to stay focused during the standard 50-minutes of class time, though a student is not required to have a disciplinary or behavioral record to attend, CCDS Public Information Officer Terri Dennis said.
Each student enrolled at the school is working toward the same, standard high school diploma as other high schools in the county. They are also assessed on the same state standards – the Florida Standard Assessments (FSA) and End-of-Course Assessments (EOC).
An annual evaluation of the nation’s communities by U.S. News scores counties by criteria such as economy, housing and education. Clay County’s education breakdown shows a 93% high school graduation rate – 3.6% higher than the national average.
The last graduation rate on record for BLC students was 67.5%, Dennis said.
“What is also unique about Bannerman is that they have a winter graduation as well,” she said. “The elevation academy on campus offers an accelerated diploma option, so those students can finish mid-year.”
Bannerman enrollment fluctuates throughout the year, but on average, the school has around 350 students, not including the infants enrolled on campus through the teenage pregnancy program.
This upcoming school year, four students are expecting and two are current teen moms, Dennis said. Bannerman has a separate room on campus for infants and toddlers that operates as a daycare with its own director.
The on-site childcare is provided at no cost and does include bus door-to-door transportation of the teen parent and child with free daily breakfast and lunch. Young Lives, a faith-based partner, comes to the center every Friday to meet and support the girls, as well as provide diapers, formula and other needs, she said.
In another partnership special to BLC for over 20 years, the school has teamed up with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Clay County and its Master Gardener volunteers to create a spot where the learning can take place, Aetna reported.
Wayne Hobbs has worked as UF’s Clay County Environmental Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator since June 2016, where he splits his time working with Master Gardener Volunteers and directly educating students on horticulture and plant gardening questions. Hobbs also writes newspaper articles for the UF extension, as well as creates lesson plans and hosts workshops.
“The role of the Master Gardener is to be an adult, not in an authoritative power, that students can feel they are forming strong and positive relationships with,” Hobbs said. “Each volunteer tends to find their section of the garden they enjoy most, and students do too.”
This year, the UF/IFAS has 10 Master Gardener Volunteers who logged over 640 hours during the school year and are currently working to maintain the garden, orchard and greenhouse during summer break.
Volunteers must go through a six to eight-course training in order to become certified as a Master Gardener Volunteer. Everything that is taught is based upon UF and other accredited research, Hobbs said.
If you have gardening questions or would like to be a Master Gardener Volunteer, contact the UF/IFAS Extension office in Clay County at 904-284-6355 or email IF-SVC-Clay-MG@ufl.edu.
R.C. Bannerman Learning Center was originally known as Dunbar High School, which was the all-black high school in Clay County that opened in the early 20th century, Dennis said.
R.C. Bannerman stands for Royal C. Bannerman, who was the former principal of Dunbar High School from 1927-1945. When Dunbar High closed its doors, and the school reopened, it was named after him as one of the long-standing principals, she said.
Bannerman died August 12, 1953, at the age of 67 and is buried in Mount Olive Cemetery in Green Cove Springs.
To be directed to the Bannerman Learning Center’s website, click here.