|Robert E. Lee Senior High School|
1200 South McDuff Avenue
|School district||Duval County Public Schools|
|Color(s)||Blue and Gray|
|Yearbook||The Blue and Gray|
Robert E. Lee Senior High School is a four-year secondary institution in Jacksonville, Florida. It was named after Confederate States of America general Robert E. Lee. Located in the Riverside and Avondale neighborhood, it is the second oldest high school in Jacksonville operating at its original location, after its traditional rival, Andrew Jackson High School.
Lee is part of the Duval County magnet school program. Eligible students at Lee can earn concurrent credit through the Jacksonville Early College High School program. They receive high school credits from Lee and college credit from Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) for the same courses.
Lee students can also specialize in courses through the Engineering Academy or the Math and Science Magnet Program. In addition, there is a Liberal Arts curriculum. The Early College, Engineering, Math and Science, plus Liberal Arts courses of study are known as Lee's four learning communities.
The architecture of Lee High School has long been a source of pride for students and alumni. Architect Victor Earl Mark (1876-1948) designed Lee High School with William B. Ittner of St. Louis in 1926-27. Both architects also designed Andrew Jackson Senior High School at the same time, which explains the striking similarity between the two school buildings. Mark studied under famed Jacksonville architect Henry John Klutho from 1907 to 1911.
The school was dedicated to Robert E. Lee on his birthday, January 19, 1928. Jacksonville's three newly constructed high schools--Lee High, Andrew Jackson High, and Julia E. Landon High--replaced Duval High School (c. 1873-1927), the city's original secondary institution for white students. The three new schools were built to meet the needs of a growing city. Black students at the time attended (Old) Stanton High School (c. 1905-53).
The main structure of Lee High School is notable for its beige bricks and top floor off-white stucco. It is handsomely framed by four gabled transepts, which in turn are framed by ground-to-roof stacks of alternating small and large cornerstones. The top floor stucco of the four transepts feature a coat of arms, in which a central figure reaches for a star on the left, while a tree occupies the right side. Also unique are the two front arch doorways, which sport an impressive amount of "radiating" stonework.
The main building has an auditorium and a large courtyard. The football stadium is in the school's "backyard." A field house was added between the stadium and the back of the school in the 1940s. Later, a first floor addition on the original structure's right side accommodated a meeting room, a cafeteria expansion, and the boys' locker room. The basketball gym was built to the right of the school, and the shop and music buildings were located behind the original building to the left at end of Donald Street.
Around 1964, the school board converted Landon High School to a junior high school. This made Lee and Jackson the two oldest Jacksonville high schools operating at their original sites.
In 1965, a group of Lee High School students formed the band My Backyard. The band, led by singer Ronnie Van Zant, was renamed Lynyrd Skynyrd after coach Leonard Skinner sent guitarist Gary Rossington to the principal's office for wearing his hair long.
Lee High, like other Duval County schools, was desegregated in two stages. The faculty was integrated during the years of 1968-71. Full student integration took place during the 1971-72 school year.
In the early 1980s, the school constructed an outdoor pool between the gym and the original building. Before that time, the swim teams trained at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd Pool, located about a mile north. Lee Pool is used by the athletic teams and physical education classes during the school year. In the summer, it becomes a free public pool operated by the City of Jacksonville Parks & Recreation Department.
On November 24, 1986, Lee was ravaged by a fire that destroyed the library and many classrooms. The fire damage was estimated at US$ 4.5 million. After the fire, the Robert E. Lee High School Restoration Committee was formed by Lee alumni to help raise money for restoration.
The cafeteria and the library were expanded during the restoration. In 1991, a new two-floor classroom building was built behind the original structure to accommodate the addition of Ninth Grade. Lee had been a three-year high school since its opening in 1927. Part of the old shop building was torn down to make way for the new two-floor building. The field house was also expanded in 1991.
Lee was one of 11 schools nationwide selected by the College Board for inclusion in the 2006-10 EXCELerator School Improvement Model program. The educational partnership, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was designed to raise Lee's graduation rate and improve college readiness, especially among minority and low income students.
The engineering program also earned two honors from the Florida Engineering Society (FES). Jeffrey G. Cumber was recognized as the 2010 Teacher of the Year, and Lee won the School of the Year title. Cumber and Lee High School respectively received $500 checks from the affiliated Florida Engineering Foundation (FEF).
Lee High itself reflects the Open Air architectural values of the Progressive Education Movement (1875-1955). The Progressives felt that schools should resemble the outdoors as much as possible. Lee High School's numerous windows bring in a lot of natural light. So, the original building is less dependent on artificial lighting. This is one of the "green" advantages of historic buildings.
The original building's courtyard, roomy stairwells, and ample hallways give students a healthy amount of physical space. Before air conditioning was installed in the late 1980s, the natural ventilation helped the school "breathe." Students found the air temperature very comfortable from October to April. Lee was also blessed with radiators for the winter. September and May were the only months when the heat and humidity were a consideration. The Open Air Style was a reaction to the dark, crowded, and poorly ventilated buildings that plagued poor school districts.
While Lee and Jackson are the two oldest Jacksonville high schools still operating on their original campuses, one could argue that Stanton is the oldest operating secondary institution in the city. Stanton opened in 1868 in downtown Jacksonville as the first school in Florida for African American children. It first served as a primary school, and later became a grade school (1-8) by the early 1890s. From 1894 to around 1905, Stanton slowly incorporated grades 9-12.
In 1938, the downtown campus became Stanton Senior High School. Other elementary and junior high schools had opened by this time to serve black students. During the 1953-54 school year, New Stanton Senior High School opened on West 13 Street. The downtown campus served as a junior high school the same year, and then became Stanton Vocational High School. So, there were actually two Stanton High Schools from 1954 to 1971, the year Stanton Vocational closed.
After integration during the 1971-72 school year, New Stanton continued as a predominantly black school until the 1980-81 year, when the school board converted the West 13 Street campus into an academic magnet under the name Stanton College Preparatory School. Since 1980, Stanton has ironically been a majority white school.
The Stanton High School name dates from the early Twentieth Century, but is no longer connected to the original downtown campus. Lee and Jackson have never been separated from their original buildings. So, Stanton can claim the title of oldest operating high school in name, but Lee and Jackson have the oldest living connections to their respective geographic locations. They are the oldest operating high school campuses.
Of course, the very first secondary institution was Duval High School. It opened circa 1873 at Church and Liberty Streets, but was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1901. After operating in temporary locations for a few years, the present brown brick structure opened in 1908 and served Jacksonville until 1927, when it closed in favor of Lee, Landon, and Jackson. The 1908 school building now houses apartments.
Duval High's status as the first among firsts is an ironic one. It survived the 1901 Fire as an institution and was housed in a new building in 1908 at 605 Ocean Street, but Jacksonville built its first suburbs in reaction to the devastation, and eventually built three new high schools--Lee, Jackson, and Landon--to replace Duval. The then-named Board of Public Instruction decided to close Duval, because the Springfield neighborhood had begun to deteriorate in the 1920s, and most white high school students lived in the suburbs by that time. Landon became a junior high school around 1964. So, only the Lee and Jackson campuses have graduated over 80 high school classes--and counting.
Total enrollment rose from 954 the first year to about 2000 in the 1950s. It generally declined to about 1200 in the late 70s. It reached a low of 777 during the 1990-91 school year. After the incorporation of Ninth Grade in 1991-92, the total number of students slowly rose to a high of 1900 in the 2005-06 year. As of February 2011, a total of 1732 students attended Lee.
The racial composition of Lee High has varied since full integration of Duval County students began in the 1971-72 school year. Robert E. Lee became a majority black school in the late 1980s. Then, it was majority white during the years 1991-96. It has been majority black since the 1996-97 school year.
Recent enrollment statistics suggest that Lee is slowly becoming a multicultural school. Since desegregation, black and whites have been the largest student ethnic groups, but Hispanic students topped 100 in 2007-08, after 16 years of general growth. If this trend continues, the presence of Spanish in Lee's hallways will become more commonplace.
A total of 1829 students attended during the 2008-09 school year. Of that total, 63.6% were black, 23.3% were white, 6.5% were Hispanic, and 4.5% were Asian. One student was Native American and 36 were of unspecified ethnicity. The number of Asian students surpassed 50 in the 1992-93 year, but the group has fluctuated between a high of 82 and a low of 44.