Coast Episcopal School celebrates 70th anniversary
Special to Long Beach Breeze
Students, alumni, staff and friends recently gathered on Coast Episcopal School’s (CES) twenty-five-acre campus to celebrate the independent school’s 70th anniversary. The event included a student music program and art show, student-led tours of the school’s new Makerspace, and lots of outdoor play and fun.
A program during the celebration recalled the founding of the school by The Reverend Charles Johnson, known as “Father J,” who was rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis. The school was born in the Parish Hall of the church. Then known as Christ Episcopal Day School, it began as a single class of seventeen children, but added a grade a year until, by 1958, it had become a complete grammar school and had moved to a new property in Bay St. Louis.
In 1968, the school purchased a property on the beach in Pass Christian for a new junior high and senior high school, but it was devastated in August of the following year by Hurricane Camille.
In 1971, the current property on Espy Avenue, a former pecan orchard, was purchased, and the now-renamed Coast Episcopal School was able to continue its growth offering a rigorous and inspiring education for local students.
In 2011, the school built an on-campus art gallery and arts center, the Gail Keenan Art Center, and, most recently, the school opened a new Makerspace, where students participate in hands-on activities, from 3D printing to soldering, that expand critical thinking and creativity.
Members of Father J’s family - including some who are current students at Coast Episcopal - gathered for the occasion, as did many past faculty members and alumni, including a member of the first class in 1950.
During the program, The Rev. Clelie McCandless, CES chaplain, said she had asked students to write what they think the late Father J would enjoy knowing about the school. Among the many “Dear Father J” letters she read was one from a fourth-grade student that said: “Many ideas may come to mind when thinking of CES: play, pray, joy and so on. But there is one that we as a whole can agree on: love. Your love for God is what this school shows. May the light of love live on.”