When the COVID-19 pandemic forced most schools in the United States to move to online learning, Bishop Montgomery was well prepared, in numerous ways, for the challenges of the months ahead. Faculty, staff, parents and students worked together to find ways to flourish during difficult times (page 8). Under the leadership of Dr. Jim Garza, not only did the school thrive, it continued forward with exciting advancements in its facilities and curriculum.

On June 1, 2020, thanks to a grant from Shea Family Charities and a partnership with CSDA Design Group and Del Amo Construction, work began on five state-of-the-art learning spaces in the second building, essentially designating a new “tech wing” on campus. Renovations in the east end of the third building– also part of the project– began, too. When the 2020-21 school year began, albeit with 100% remote learning, construction was complete, and the new S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Media) labs were ready and waiting for the students’ and teachers’ return to campus

Renovations to the media center/library and adjacent spaces include the creation of a new, larger IT room and the reconfiguration and renovation of the Educational Technology Coordinator’s office to include a world languages and eSports lab. Perhaps the most noticeable changes are the significant renovations to the Room 203 Computer Lab and Room 205. Prior to construction, Room 205 served as the Mac/Digital Arts Lab and the Computer Lab housed many more desktops than necessary. After knocking down walls and reconfiguring the square-footage, the space was divided into three rooms: a smaller, more efficient computer lab; an engineering room with maker space; and, a robotics lab. Brian Adams, BMHS’ Technology Curriculum Integration Specialist, is excited that the new spaces will “provide students with ideal environments and opportunities for hands-on experimentation, creativity, and real-world problem-solving, all while developing a wide range of 21st century skills.”

Construction, however, was not limited to just the second building. In the east wing of the third building, Room 301 and the adjacent Student Activities Office was redeveloped and is now home to the Mac Lab and Digital Arts Studio (The Activities Office moved to the west wing of the third building). This new space provides students and teachers with a flexible work environment for classes that are offered there, including Art Design, AP Studio Art, Graphic Design, and Yearbook.

“M” is for Media
While the new labs provide a main hub on campus for all engineering and computer science courses, as well as extra-curricular programs like Robotics and eSports, they are also home to a wide variety of Bishop’s digital arts classes and clubs. The spaces are perfect for media-focused classes like Studio Art & Design, Graphic Design, Yearbook, and Video Production, and clubs that include the Visual Arts Club and Knightlife, BMHS’ school newspaper.

Thanks to an incredible collaboration between Shea Family Charities, CSDA Design Group, and Del Amo Construction, these new spaces create a more centralized home for programs and classes previously spread across campus, including the Project Lead the Way engineering classes, robotics, and digital and fine arts. Since the robotics team’s inception several years ago, for example, the club worked out of a remote room on the west side of campus, far from the main school buildings. Not only was the space inadequate, its location made it difficult to transfer tools, equipment and materials.

The second building “tech wing” also creates a centralized location for Bishop’s new engineering classes. Last year, the first class of a four-part sequence with PLTW, Principles of Engineering, was introduced in the curriculum. This year, the school added the second course, Introduction to Engineering Design. Now these classes, along with other new and existing courses, will have state-of-the-art facilities for student learning.

In addition to the newly added Engineering Design course, the 2020-21 school year also brings the Advanced Placement Capstone Program, a diploma program from the College Board, to BMHS. AP Capstone includes two year-long AP courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. In the program, students self-select an area of study and develop skills in research, analysis, evidence-based arguments, collaboration, writing, and presenting around a topic in that area. The new STEAM labs will provide dedicated workspace for students to work independently, as well as collaboratively, with teachers and other students in the AP Capstone program. “The AP Capstone program provides our students with the tools they need to excel in college and the workplace,” says John Hong, Bishop’s AP Capstone program coordinator. “This program helps them to foster skills to think critically and creatively, solve problems, work collaboratively, write research-based papers, and present information in a professional manner. The best part of the program is that students choose topics and themes they are interested in and want to research. I’m excited to be a part of this learning journey with them.”

Construction of the new STEAM facilities comes on the heels of Bishop Montgomery’s recognition as one of the top high schools in the nation for quality STEM education by Newsweek. In conjunction with November 2019’s National STEM Day, Newsweek published a list of the top 5,000 high schools that excel in STEM education. Partnering with, Newsweek ranked schools in every region of the country that offer skilled teachers who keep up with developments in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and who create dynamic learning environments to engage their students. “It is wonderful that our teachers and students are already receiving accolades for their work in these fields of study,” says Andy Marafino, Bishop’s Director of Advancement. “Thanks to the generosity of Shea Family Charities, our teachers and students are in a position to make even greater strides and hone those much-needed 21st century skills together.”

Bishop Montgomery received the news from Nancy Cooper, Newsweek’s Global Editor-in-Chief. “Your students are natural STEM students,” she noted. “We need to make sure their innate drive, curiosity, and creativity aren’t lost along the way. And the best STEM schools are helping to ensure that America’s future in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is in good hands.” This news, and the creation of the new labs, positions Bishop Montgomery as a standard for STEM excellence for years to come.

One of the benefits of the new STEAM spaces is the versatility they will provide. The creation of a world languages and eSports lab, as well as the renovations in the third building for the Mac Lab/Digital Arts Studio, gives students and teachers rooms designed for multiple uses. In fact, in the design phase of the project, creating welcoming and exciting spaces that offer flexibility was a priority. “Our mission is to teach all students who attend Bishop Montgomery to be good stewards, not just of life, but of technology and innovation,” says Garza. “It is our desire to have all students be the embodiment of a 21st century learner who is guided by the teachings of Jesus. These renovations will enhance our ability to provide them with the tools they need to be empowered learners, innovative designers, computational thinkers, creative communicators and global collaborators with an education steeped in a Catholic worldview.”

In the midst of a global pandemic and unprecedented times throughout the world, the arrival of these new STEAM facilities reinforces Bishop Montgomery’s continued commitment to provide students with the best education possible. Through the guidance and generosity of Shea Family Charities and the help of an innovative team of designers and educators, the project has become a reality for the students, faculty, and community.

Thank you to alumni Shannon Heinlein-Tabaldo ’91, Director of Digital Curriculum Integration and Development for Loyola Marymount’s School of Education, and Dan Isidro ’02 of CSDA Design Group, for their assistance with this project.

BMHS Delivers Enhanced Online Learning Support to Students & Teachers

Providing teachers and students with the very best tools for learning, both in person and online, is at the core of Bishop’s academic program. The many challenges of navigating through a pandemic have not deterred BMHS from offering the latest in technological resources to the faculty and students. This is due, in great part, to the generosity of the many parents, alumni, and friends who have supported the school over the years. This fall, BMHS purchased new devices and added several online learning platforms to optimize the educational experiences of the students.

With our new Swivl robotic camera mounts and iPad tablets, remote instruction will be even more engaging, flexible, and extensive than ever before. With Swivl’s motion-tracking capabilities, as well as clip-on microphone, teachers can effortlessly move around the room, from laptop to white board to instructional materials, while always staying within the camera’s frame and providing clear audio.

This online learning platform optimizes the educational experience by organizing course materials and resources, promoting collaboration with both real-time and on-demand discussions, and streamlining the creation, distribution, and collection of assignments. Utilized by universities across the country, this college-level management system makes our online learning even more robust, comprehensive, and user-friendly for both students and teachers.

An upgrade from the standard Zoom, Zoom Pro utilizes more sophisticated web and video-conferencing software. High-quality features include unlimited group meetings, extended time limits, participant tracking, and added security. This significantly stronger platform provides our teachers and student groups with more options for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars, both inside and outside the classroom.

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