Open house aims to bring school’s dream to further fruition

The old St. Francis Xavier campus (background) meets the new one (right) during a May 3 open house. The old buildings will come down this summer and a third be erected as part of an ongoing capital campaign. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

As summer vacation inches near, students might be tempted to daydream while at school.

At St. Francis Xavier School, that’s okay. Students will soon have an even greater opportunity to do so. A two-story classroom building, rich with natural light, is set to open in August.

“We wanted a lot of windows so kids could daydream. That’s a really big part of Jesuit spirituality is trust your imagination. That God speaks through our imagination,” Kim Cavnar, principal at St. Francis Xavier told The Catholic Sun after a walking tour of the Jesuit school’s newest classroom building.

More than 300 people including current school families, alumni and benefactors took a guided walking tour May 3. Each room carried a Dr. Seuss theme, building upon that imagination concept. Some rooms also had students dressed up as Thing 1 and Thing 2.

The crowd also found faculty in each room, ready to highlight the latest technology, ample space and furnishings. All 10 elementary–level classrooms will offer high speed and wireless Internet, Britelinks projectors that turns any surface into an interactive learning space and LED lighting. They’re also substantially larger, growing from 650 square feet to more than 1,000-square-feet.

Private, small-group meeting space between the classrooms is another new feature. A larger atrium, a space for Catholic teaching and spiritual retreat, is also part of the new building. During the open house, it showcased a tribute to those honored with memorial gifts.

A key part of the $4.5-million building is a new library. It can support two classes for student learning while others are checking out material. The library, which the librarian reportedly compared to upgrade from a motel to the Ritz Carlton, will also have 16 computers and a dedicated media lab.

Jesuit Father Dan Sullivan, pastor, gave each tour group a whirlwind history of the campus which until recently, hadn’t had a facelift since the ‘50s.

Junior high classrooms and the school gym opened nearly two-and-a-half years ago as the first fruits of the ongoing Etched in Our Hearts capital campaign. Phase B should open in August with the old buildings coming down this summer.

That leaves Phase C, a building that will adequately house administration, Spanish and the arts, just getting underway. A $100,000 matching grant was announced during the open house to help make that vision a reality.

“The buildings are important, but what is more important is that we’re educating children. We’re giving them the best possible educational environment that we can,” Fr. Sullivan said.

Jessica Hajjar, a freshman at Xavier College Preparatory, agreed. She spent five years at St. Francis Xavier and said it’ll be important for the elementary students to be able to learn in so many different ways and adapt with the technology.

Hajjar said she also felt prepared for high school and life beyond through St. Francis Xavier’s commitment to community service. Students learn to be “kids for others” and raise money for local organizations.

That’s something that is subtly woven into the campus’ new look, St. Francis Xavier’s principal said. The ceiling-high windows are thought to symbolize students and alumni bringing the Light out into the world.

 

_____________________

For  more on the Etched in Our Hearts Capital Campaign, visit its website

Editor’s Note: Kristin Parrack, capital campaign coordinator, was listed as the Phoenix Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” for being such an impressive leader. So was Ann-Marie Donaldson Alameddin, a St. Francis Xavier alum, who was invited into the school’s first “Best in Class” cohort which recognizes outstanding alumni. They’ll be formally recognized June 19.