St. John Catholic School is expanding its building and education programs as an incoming middle school class increases its student population.
Church members, parents and outside sources donated enough money to fund the construction project, which will cost $2.18 million, at the school at 1208 Kentucky St. in Lawrence. The addition will include new classrooms, a large youth area with a kitchen, a large library and a music room. The work on the school, by B.A. Green Construction Inc., started in mid-October and is scheduled to end in mid-July — just in time for the next school year.
The school, which originally offered preschool through sixth grade, added seventh grade this past year and will add eighth grade this fall. Because Lawrence's public school changed their junior high and high school configuration, St. John either had to drop sixth grade or add two more grades to match the public schools' offerings.
“By adding the eighth grade, we have more people participating, along with the participation of parents and the parish in the school, which has helped enhance the St. John community,” the Rev. John Schmeidler of St. John Catholic Church said.
The school is also adding new programs to accommodate the middle schoolers. This year, the school added more foreign languages: Latin, German, French and Mandarin. Next fall it will expand the science, art and theater programs.
“This is what we’ve always wanted to do,” Pat Newton, the school's principal, said. “Parents have always asked if we could build a junior high. K through 8 is pretty much the mode for most Catholic schools.”
Though construction is going on during school hours, it hasn’t prevented the children from learning. Most of the noise disrupts the principal's office and storage areas.
“This building is so well-built, and they are picking the outside bricks off one by one, and it’s like being in dentist office with the drill going,” Newton said.
Tim Green, the superintendent of the construction project, said he attended St. John in the early 1960s. His family has been a part of the St. John community since as long as he can remember, and his grandfather helped build nearby St. John church.
“It’s neat for me to be able to know that any of the buildings that me, my granddads, my dad or my uncles built have a little bit of history in this town,” Green said. “It’s pretty cool.”
In the future, St. John Church plans to add a larger gym to the school and to expand the sanctuary in the church.