“Unique and Essential”
Jones Family’s 2001 Gift for Campus Health Center Proves Critical to Student Wellness, COVID Mitigation
By David Klein | Back to Table of Contents
Sometimes, the best gifts are the ones that keep on giving. In the case of the Seby B. Jones Health Center — built as part of the four-year, $12.5M Bold Initiatives campaign — the gift that made the facility possible 20 years ago has helped make Ravenscroft’s return to on-campus instruction possible today.
“The Jones Health Center is unique among facilities at many of our peer schools,” Associate Head of School for Philanthropy Phil Higginson said. “And it has become essential this year.”
The gift was born out of a family’s bond with the school. The building’s namesake, Seby Jones, had six grandchildren attend Ravenscroft, and family members were enthusiastic supporters of Ravenscroft initiatives. During this same time, they provided a gift to name the theater in the Fine Arts Center after Jones’ wife, Christina.
“One of my grandfather’s passions was quality education for all students. Health and wellness of the students went hand-in-hand with his beliefs,” said Christi Jones ’90. “I know my grandfather would be very proud of the critical role the Jones Health Center plays in the day-to-day life of all students today.”
The family of Seby B. Jones gathers for the building’s dedication in this photo from the 2001 Corvus: (front row) Keith Harrod, Linda Hancock, Beth Jones, school nurse Martha Janes, Julie Jones, Alice Harrod, Kristy Parker Harrod ’82; (back row) Rob Jones ’89, Chip Jones, Roddy Jones, Christi Jones ’90, Eve Jones, Jim Jones, Jeff Harrod ’82.
A ROW OF TRAILERS
In the early days of Ravenscroft’s north Raleigh campus, the school’s administration, teachers and staff operated out of prefabricated trailers set up in rows surrounded by towering trees. An ambitious flurry of construction between 1970 and 1974 allowed students and teachers to move into custom-built academic facilities, but when Martha Janes came on as school nurse in 1975, her office was still in a trailer.
Janes acknowledged that the trailer was not ideal: equipped with an oversized sink from its previous use as a science lab, it was small, lacked bathrooms and was located “up on the hill,” which made for a long walk, especially for the youngest Ravens.
Nevertheless, recalled Janes, “it worked. We worked in it for a number of years. There was a whole row of trailers up above what is now the business office. Up from that, there was a paved walkway, and off of that was Headmaster Verne Hawes’ trailer.” Admissions, the Business Office and other departments also operated out of this trailer network.
Anna Claire Murnick Price ’03 said she remembers the nurse’s trailer well. “I used to always go visit when Coach Long would tell us we had to run ‘the mile’ in P.E., and Nurse Janes would always figure out that my stomach really didn’t hurt!” she said.
Left: This view of the Bell Tower from the site of the Jones Health Center build, captured in the 2000 Corvus, shows the extent of demolition and debris from the project.
Right: School nurse Martha Janes, shown here in the 2001 Corvus, served Ravenscroft for more than 25 years.
A SIGNIFICANT UPGRADE
The nursing trailer remained in its place on the hill until it was relocated adjacent to the site of the new health center, which opened in 2001. Janes remembered being able to view the construction from her office.
The new health center, part of a wave of construction that also gave the growing campus the Library & Technology Center (now the Keim Center for Innovation and Research), Winston Library and Murphy Hall Upper School, was a significant upgrade. In addition to an exam room and office space, the building includes several private rooms where ailing students can rest while awaiting their parents.
Another distinguishing feature of the Jones Health Center is that it is a stand-alone building — an aspect that has taken on greater importance amid the school’s myriad COVID-mitigation efforts. Co-Director of Clinical Services Rebecca Nelson said the setup of the health center, where she works with colleague Gina Taylor, has proven to be essential in managing protocols during the pandemic.
“When we met virtually with other nurses throughout North Carolina and with other independent schools, rarely did we find that they had a facility similar to ours,” Nelson said. “And the fact that it’s not located in a division, that we have multiple rooms and the physical capacity to make a quarantine room and still have a space for kids to come in and out — all of that made the planning [for a return to campus this fall] so much easier.”
Jones, whose sons, Jax ’30 and Colt Dudek ’31, are current students, echoes that sentiment. “The fact that the health center is a separate building means children or staff can quickly be separated from others if they begin to feel sick. I believe immediately removing a sick individual from the classroom environment is key in the ability to keep schools open,” she said. “The Jones Health Center plays a critical role in our ability to open school and hold in-person classes.”
School nurse Gina Taylor works at her desk in the Jones Health Center, which features an exam room, office space and several isolation rooms.
Above: Today, school nurses Gina Taylor and Rebecca Nelson serve students in the Jones Health Center, which features an exam room, office space and several isolation rooms.
Ravenscroft Magazine, Fall 2019
“Compassion, clarity and consistency”: The Jones Health Center’s Rebecca Nelson
Rebecca Nelson has served as Coordinator of the Jones Health Center since 2016 and, along with Upper School counselor Kendra Varnell, is Co-Director of Clinical Services. A nurse practitioner with postgraduate degrees from Duke and UNC, Nelson has brought an added dimension to the position — particularly with the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
When the reality of the pandemic hit, the first order of business was to review the protocols the school had in place for a pandemic and figure out what needed to be updated to address the particulars of COVID-19. Playing a key role in conversations among school leadership, educators, facilities managers and more, Nelson helped spearhead the effort to decipher all the latest information.
Her input was especially critical as Ravenscroft developed a strategy to return to in-person learning in the fall.
“Rebecca’s calm presence has been a model for all of us in this time of uncertainty. She responds to questions from parents, students, faculty and staff with compassion, clarity and consistency,” Colleen Ramsden, Associate Head of School for Academics and Student Affairs, said. “Ravenscroft is handling the challenges of the pandemic in large part thanks to her knowledge and dedication and that of her colleague, Gina Taylor.”
Nelson is proud of the school’s response to the pandemic. “I think we’ve done things that we didn’t think we’d be able to do,” she said. “Every student who’s on campus has completed a health survey every day. Parents are taking temperatures and we’re doing spot checks, we’re able to maintain distancing, and even PreK students are wearing masks. We didn’t know if PreK students would keep masks on!”
Nelson has the unmistakable aura of someone who loves her work. “It hits on a lot of the things I love about nursing,” she said. “Seeing the students grow and learn, you get to see their excitement and their enthusiasm. And getting to talk to parents and letting them know how hard we’re working to take care of their kids, they really appreciate that.”