St. Johns Country Day School was founded by Dr. Edwin P. Heinrich, formerly the head of the Upper Division at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C., and his wife Dorothea, a teacher and reading specialist.
They, along with a small group of local parents, recognized the need for a quality, co-educational, independent, college preparatory school in the Jacksonville area. St. Johns opened on September 14, 1953 in an unused public building leased from the Town of Orange Park. Stressing a strong academic foundation at all levels, the school began with 25 students in grades one through ten.
Before the end of the school’s second year, it was accredited by the Florida State Department of Education and became a charter member of the Florida Council of Independent Schools which Dr. Heinrich helped found. In 1956, St. Johns graduated its first class: two girls and five boys. Total enrollment that year had reached 127 students and the school was outgrowing the rented space. Twenty-six acres were purchased and within a year the school built and moved into its own building. Dr. Heinrich served as the school’s headmaster until his retirement in 1970, and he continued to support the school until his death in 1977. Mrs. Heinrich maintained ties to the school until her death in 2006.
The original structure of the school was constructed in 1957 and housed the library, upper and lower school classrooms, and administrative offices. Physical improvements since that date have included additional classrooms and laboratories, a middle school building, computer mini-labs, a gymnasium, a swimming pool complex, and a student activity center. However, increased enrollment and advanced technology eventually taxed the original facility.
In 2002, St. Johns embarked on an ambitious capital campaign to fund needed changes and improvements. A 10,000-square-foot Learning Resource Center, four new pre-school classrooms, five new lower school classrooms, an auxiliary gymnasium, as well as a 25,000-square-foot, 600-seat Performing Arts Center, and renovation of the existing library/administration are a result of that campaign.
The school recently completed new improvements to the campus, including the addition of a second floor to the Middle School building and the construction of a new 30,000+ square-foot Upper School building. Both buildings feature state-of-the art technology, including SmartBoards in all classrooms and laboratories.
In fall 2011, the opening of the Early Learning Center accented the school’s expanding three year old program. Housed in their own building complete with a dedicated playground, classes for three year olds include age appropriate academics as well as the school’s full range of resources in art, physical education, dance, drama, music, library, and French.
As St. Johns Country Day School approaches its 60th anniversary, its faculty and staff look back with pride on the decades of academic excellence, the successes of the 1,700+ graduates, and the contributions made to this community. Based on that legacy, St. Johns looks forward with a vision and commitment to continued excellence in education.