HOLY NATIVITY EPISCOPAL SCHOOL
It is the purpose of Holy Nativity Episcopal School:
to provide a nurturing Christian environment where students with promise receive challenging academics, enriching opportunities, and a solid foundation for developing their potential as good, caring, and responsible citizens.
Over 50 years ago, members of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church embarked on a mission to create a school and in 1959 the mission became a reality. A kindergarten program, Holy Nativity Episcopal Day School, was opened with the intent of educating children in a loving, Christian environment.
During the years that followed and into the 1990’s, the school continually expanded, growing to a school serving 3 year olds through 5th grade. At first, the school utilized the church’s two-story Sunday school building, over the years acquired 8 houses in the residential neighborhood surrounding the church, and in 1996 purchased a two-classroom portable building. Attempts were made to add a 6th grade to the school a few times and, during this period, the name was changed to Holy Nativity Episcopal School. However, even today, long-time residents of Panama City refer to HNES as “The Day School”-- the shortened and loving name used to refer to the school during those first 25 or 30 years.
As the academic reputation of Holy Nativity grew, it was decided to pursue the highly regarded accreditation of the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) and the Florida Kindergarten Council (FKC). The application process began in 1992 by providing documentation that Holy Nativity met the superior instructional standards, financial stability, safe and child-appropriate environment, and sound administrative and board policies required by FCIS and FKC. Passing the intense evaluation process was a long but rewarding self-examination culminating in our 1993 FCIS / FKC initial accreditation. Holy Nativity Episcopal School has continuously maintained the rigorous standards of FCIS and FKC, passing each accreditation inspection since 1993, and currently enjoys 25 continuous years as one of the distinguished FCIS/FKC schools of Florida.
In 1998 the Holy Nativity School Foundation purchased Cove Elementary School, the beautiful and historic school originally established in 1937 and one of the first public schools in the area. The generosity of the Foundation’s purchase provided the opportunity for future expansion of Holy Nativity. The 3K through 5th grade school could now add grades 6 through 8 for the long requested HNES middle school. After a year of renovation, a portion of the Cove school building was restored to its original beauty and the 5th and 6th graders attended classes on the highly polished hardwood floors in the classic high-ceiling classrooms.
The addition of the Cove campus created a two-campus school referred to as “the lower campus” and “the upper campus.” The lower campus, the original campus, was located at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church and served all of the kindergartens and, at first, the first through fourth grades; the upper campus, the Cove campus, became the 1999 home of the 5th grade, plus the initial 6th grade class of Holy Nativity Middle School.
Right after school recessed for the summer 2000, second grade student William Charles Hall was fatally injured in a boating accident. William was an outstanding athlete who excelled in sports and had many friends. His mother, Rebecca Hall, led the way in a fundraising campaign in which William’s friends gave some $25,000 to develop William’s Field, a new soccer field that quickly became a joy and asset in the school and to the community. A plaque in memory of William is on the side of the kindergarten room facing the William’s Field.
Each year a middle school grade was added until the 6th - 8th middle school dream was completed. In 2001 Holy Nativity Episcopal Middle School celebrated its first 8th grade graduation. Over the next few years, additional grade levels were transferred to the Cove campus, so that by 2007 the Upper School consisted of 3rd – 8th grades.
Planning for the future, in 2006 the Board of Directors had purchased three houses on Hamilton Avenue across the street from the Cove campus. Meanwhile, the houses at the lower campus were in need of costly renovation, leading to the next big change: consolidating the HNES campuses. Throughout the summer of 2009, the monumental task of not only moving all of the classrooms from the lower to the upper campus, but also re-purposing areas of the upper school to accommodate the entire kindergarten and 1st and 2nd grades, was accomplished.
At the beginning of our next 50 years of history, Holy Nativity Episcopal School was once again on one campus, and we celebrated the first 50 years of educational excellence by hosting a 50 Year Celebration. In 2010, the original Cove School Building, now the home of HNES, was named The Lloyd Building, to honor William (Bill) Lloyd, Sr. who had not only spearheaded saving the beautiful and historic building from destruction, but also spent every day for over a year on the back-breaking work of renovation.
Expansion continues. During the summer of 2011, HNES’ portable building was moved to the campus and, with tremendous help, renovated so that “the cottage” became two lovely classrooms. The summer of 2012 saw the complete renovation of one of HNES’ Hamilton houses, now our media center and a light-filled classroom for art.
During the fall of 2012, Holy Nativity hosted a 75th Birthday Party and Cove School Reunion for all who had attended Cove School from 1937 until its closing in 1988. What had originally been conceived as a Sunday afternoon cake and punch event grew into a glorious Sunday afternoon reception attended by between 400 and 500 former Cove School graduates and HNES Alumni. Paul Brent, a local artist with an international reputation created a unique portrait of the school, unveiled on that Sunday, to honor the history of Cove School. Importantly, on that day we celebrated and highlighted the very special union of Cove Elementary School and Holy Nativity Episcopal School.