Schools open larger facilities to meet enrollment, embrace technology

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted blessed four newly renamed areas of the campus before entering Founders Hall, a new two-story building with a student union, cafeteria, classrooms and 350-seat chapel.

Students at a few Catholic campuses returned to expanded and more modern facilities when school resumed in August.

First- through eighth-graders at St. Francis Xavier essentially arrived at a new school altogether Aug. 21. The last of the Jesuit school’s original buildings came down over the summer. Two, two-story buildings, the second of which opened last month, stand in its place.

The school’s 10 newest classrooms offer high speed and wireless Internet, a Britelinks projector 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. That is particularly helpful for students needing more individual instruction as the kindergarten teachers found out.

The kindergarten and junior high grades moved into a similar, adjacent building two-and-a-half years ago. Both structures and the new library, which also temporarily houses administration, are rich with natural light.

“We wanted a lot of windows so kids could daydream. That’s a really big part of Jesuit spirituality, to trust your imagination, that  God speaks through our imagination,” Kim Cavnar, principal at St. Francis Xavier told The Catholic Sun.

She noted the ceiling-high windows in the library. They’re thought to symbolize students and alumni bringing the light out into the world, Cavnar said.

The library is now more fully equipped to serve students, said Mary Ellen Olivieri, librarian. She guessed it to be about two-thirds larger than the old library and praised the open and inviting space. Oversized armchairs and several tables provide ample work and study space. A 36-station computer lab is also part of the media center.

“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,” Jesuit Father Dan Sullivan said during a public tour.

Phase C of St. Francis Xavier’s ongoing Etched in Our Hearts capital campaign is underway. The school’s final building will house administration and classrooms for Spanish, art and music. Students in those classes are meeting in temporary space this year.

That’s a thing of the past at nearby Xavier College Preparatory. An Aug. 31 blessing and dedication of Founders Hall and Chapel of Our Lady provided long-awaited classroom space for every teacher — something lacking for at least 20 years.

The two-story hall features 10 new classrooms equipped with interactive “SMART” walls and two photo labs. The rooms also feature flatscreen TVs, which offered a live feed of the 90-minute walking dedication. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted stopp