The Academic Center for Excellence at St. Francis de Sales High School will offer tutoring, writing coaches, a computer lab, and space for makeup tests, studying, and working on joint projects.
A renovation and expansion of St. Francis de Sales High School's main building will provide space for enhanced academic programming and alumni relations.
Officials broke ground Wednesday on the $1.4 million project, called the Academic Center for Excellence. The new space on the Bancroft Street building's east end will combine the library and two classrooms. The east facade, now mostly brick, will be changed largely to glass, and a staircase will be added to go directly from the building's entrance to the academic center on the second floor.
Total renovated and added space will be about 6,000 square feet, according to school officials. The project is part of the school's eight-point strategic plan, called the Courage, Leadership, and Legacy plan, which also calls for a new football turf and locker room space, expansion of its charter feeder school, a marketing campaign, and more.
"This is just the first visible sign of the success we've achieved," campaign chairman Dennis Johnson said. "There's a lot of things yet to be done."
The new center, paid for through the school's capital campaign, will serve multiple purposes. Tutoring services will be housed in the center, as will writing coaches. Make-up tests can be completed in a dedicated space. There will be a computer lab and study space. The center is meant to create an atmosphere similar to common spaces at universities, with booths where students can gather for research and group projects.
The new entrance will likely mean extended or weekend hours, so students can use the space after school. It also will be open to faculty, parents, and alumni, with the hope that current students can connect and work with the broader St. Francis community.
The new facade will make greater use of the school's location, providing greater views of nearby Ottawa Park. And although the center will be available to parents and alumni, its purpose is for students, school leaders said.
"There is only one reason we do any new construction project at St. Francis," the Rev. Ronald Olszewski, St. Francis' president, said. "For the good of our students."
Work on the computer lab should be complete by the start of fall classes, while the rest of the project is scheduled to be finished by Oct. 3, according to principal Eric Smola.
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