A Learning Community


Hilton Head Christian Academy students will enter a new learning community, not a new school, when the 70,000-square-foot Bluffton campus opens, which is expected to be this month, school officials say. 

The $23-million campus, near the corner of Bluffton Parkway and Masters Way, is designed to fit the student and not the other way around, according to school leaders and campus designers. 

Students will interact with each other and their teachers without the confines of traditional classrooms on the new campus. There are flexible learning suites where multiple teachers can gather and teach, said Zenos Morris, project manager of Court Atkins Group. 

“We actually refer to the campus as a learning community versus a school to denote the fact that it was designed to be different from traditional school buildings,” said Doug Langhals, HHCA’s Head of School, in an email response to questions. “The spaces are meant to communicate that we care about our students.” 

learning community2The abundance of natural light and comfortable furniture sends a similar message, he added. 

“The new HHCA campus is designed to fulfill and adapt to multiple learning opportunities,” said James C. Atkins, Court Atkins Group partner.

“There are no hallways, but a series of interconnected learning environments that can support an entire grade level presentation or an independent study session with the student’s mentor.”

Art, science and fabrication laboratories (fab labs) are dispersed throughout the building, Atkins said The art and fab labs connect to patios and porches that allow students to work outside on projects, such as pottery or painting.

Research has shown that students learn better in a collaborative, open environment,” Langhals said. “Not everyone learns the same way. What works for one stu-dent may not be effective for another and the learning environment plays a part in that.”

The setup of the building fosters movement, Morris said. “There isn’t a space that feels stagnant,” he added.

The Bluffton campus, sitting on 27.7 acres, was designed to anticipate needs HHCA may have in 10 to 15 years. A multipurpose building for performing arts and athletics joins the academic building in the spring. 

 “Every space was intentionally designed to accommodate our unique project-based learning model,” Langhals said. 

HHCA has 72 people on its faculty and staff. The 45 teachers are called mentors, who visitors will see “walking through the classroom, guiding students with questions or making suggestions on multiple ways to approach a challenge,” Langhals said. 

HHCA, which opened on Hilton Head in 1979, has nearly 500 students from around the Lowcountry in its K-12 program. The ground was broken for the new campus in May 2019. 

And while the campus was designed as an open environment, planners did not forego safety. There is a network of technology through the building for any type of emergency, Atkins said. 

There are the expected card readers and access control. Doors from the learning suites are only accessible from inside. And there is interior shading that can be pulled down in case of an emergency to prevent someone outside from looking in. 

The new facilities were financed through the sale of the Hilton Head campus, private donations and financing. Supporters of the first campus contributed to the funding of the new one, Langhals said, building on a legacy started 41 years ago. 

“That’s quite a legacy of academic excellence,” he said. “We’re excited about the new year on a new campus and to see that legacy continue. It’s part of the reason we named the road leading up to the campus entrance Legacy Lane. It serves as a great reminder of what’s happening on campus each day.”