Middle school students at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School will soon have a place to call their own in a new $5 million building.
The 24,000-square-foot addition to the church's campus on Castlewood Drive includes a middle school wing with four classrooms, a science lab, and a technology lab as well as a neighborhood center, gym, and kitchen.
The facility, eight years in the making, will be dedicated today with a Mass at 4 p.m. said by Bishop Leonard Blair followed by blessings of each room. More than 600 people are expected to attend.
The current 80-year-old school building houses the 286 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
When school starts in August, students in grades six, seven, and eight will have classes in the new building, which will help give them the full middle-school experience and better prepare them for high school, Principal Kathy White said.
"It's going to affect their maturity because when you have middle school in with the primary, you have rules for both," she said. "Now they'll have the opportunity to be more creative."
The students are particularly excited about the new high-tech labs and gym.
"The science lab is great," said Katie Welling, 13, a seventh grader. "We've really been waiting for one and to have a whole lab with sinks and burners is just great."
And Hannah Shortridge, 13, also in seventh grade, said she's glad to have not only a new school, but the neighborhood center near her home.
"It's really cool because if we have a game here in the gym, I can walk to that too," she said.
There's also an office for the Greater Close Park Neighborhood Organization in a new multipurpose room to further the relationship between the church and school with the neighborhood, which includes Close Park.
"It's not a parish center, it's a neighborhood center," the Rev. Martin Donnelly, pastor of Blessed Sacrament, said. "It took a lot of community and strong leadership to make this happen."
An ongoing fund-raising campaign, called "Renaissance: Our Future. A call to renew, a call to serve," has raised $4.5 million from parishioners, school alumni, and other neighborhood friends.
The church has more than 1,100 families with a membership of about 3,300 people. Enrollment for the school is already at 316 for next year.
The idea for the new building developed in 1999 and construction took about a year, said John LePla, operations director for the parish.
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