Groundbreaking ceremony heralds St. John’s expansion

School addition would accommodate grades 7, 8

With garden trowels, spade shovels and toy dump trucks, the students of St. John Catholic School broke ground for a new addition to the building at 1208 Ky.

The Rev. John Schmeidler, of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, watches as St. John’s students participate Thursday in a ceremonial dig on a piece of property planned for a new middle school. The addition, pending approval, will be in the empty lot beside 1229 Vt., between the current school and the church.

The ceremonial groundbreaking marks the school’s expansion into the upper middle school grades. The real groundbreaking isn’t expected until late summer or early fall. The school still needs approval from the archdiocese and the city of Lawrence before construction can begin.

When completed, the estimated $2 million project would include six new classrooms. One classroom will be a library with multipurpose space, and another will provide lab space.

On Thursday, the last day of school at St. John, the Rev. John Schmeidler blessed the ground with holy water as parents, students and teachers watched.

As the school waits for final approvals, Schmeidler said the ceremony symbolized their move to seventh and eighth grades.

The expansion, which is expected to be done in time for the start of the 2013 school year, will make it easier for St. John to add seventh- and eighth-grade students. This year, the school had its first sixth-grade class, which had the middle school elements of lockers and schedules.

Next year, the school plans to add a seventh-grade class and then an eighth-grade class in 2013.

“We have enough space for seventh grade. It will be tight, but it will work. By eighth-grade year, we will need some other (space),” Schmeidler said.

The expansion would provide enough room for the upper grades. A group of fifth-grade girls were excited about the prospect of having lockers, science labs and more space one day.

“It feels like right now we’re all cramped,” Sammy Williams said.

She also liked the idea of being there for the groundbreaking.

“You get to start building the building. When you come back to school you will be able to say I helped build this building,” she said.