St. John Vianney breaks ground for sorely needed expansion to meet growth

Dignitaries turn the first shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking for St. John Vianney School’s expansion Dec. 9. From left to right are principal Doug Weivoda, pastor Fr. Tom Eckert, CSC, Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord, Hal Looney, president of Shea Homes Arizona, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Glenn Leier, a representative of West-Pac Construction Co. (Photo courtesy of St. John Vianney School)

By Jeff Grant
The Catholic Sun

GOODYEAR — Construction is proceeding on schedule on a new wing that will enable St. John Vianney School to meet steadily growing student demand by this time next year.

Officials broke ground Dec. 9 on the project, which will see the school at 539 E. La Pasada Blvd. add 10 classrooms — for a new total of 32 — and a gymnasium with a stage and full kitchen, according to Principal Doug Weivoda.

“Four years ago, we were at 198 students; today we’re at 398. We’re going to run out of class space until we finish this next year,” Weivoda said.

The project will give St. John Vianney another 21,460 square feet of space in a two-story structure connected to the upper floor of an existing classroom building by a footbridge. It will occupy space once used for a playground and enable the school to keep pace with a steady pattern of growth over the past few years, said Fr. Thomas Eckert, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish.

From left to right are St. John Vianney parochial vicar Thomas Lemos, CSC, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, pastor Fr. Thomas Eckert, CSC, and principal Doug Weivoda. (Photo courtesy of St. John Vianney School)

“It’s a great multipurpose building; having the additional classrooms will allow us to continue growing the school by an additional 250 students. We would like to fill each seat in each class to (educate) over 600 students,” Fr. Eckert said.

St. John Vianney currently averages 25-35 students per class, according to a project description presented to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission last year. An optimal level is 20-25, according to the presentation.

Weivoda said all indications are the school, along with the parish, will continue to grow, and the new wing allows for that.

“We have mirrored the exponential growth in the West Valley. When St. John Vianney Parish was built in 1998, we had about 800 families. Five years ago, it was between 3,000 and 4,000. Today, we have approximately 4,500. We want to continue our growth but keep class sizes consistent. This will help make that possible,” he said.

Valley homebuilder Shea Homes is largely funding the project just like it did for a series of upgrades at other campuses last summer. St. John Vianney’s new gym will hold physical education classes when the weather gets too hot. Weivoda noted the temperature typically tops 90 degrees by mid-March, and that trend continues right through late October.

St. John Vianney School staff pose in front of a tractor prior to the Dec. 9 groundbreaking. (Photo courtesy of St. John Vianney School)

The gym will also feature a full working stage, which will allow administrators to broaden the school’s arts curriculum and start a band program. There also will be stadium seating for up to 1,000 spectators. Mass could even be held there if necessary.

“It is very exciting,” added Fr. Eckert. “This is the whole community — the school, our parish.”

Such upgrades mean the school can better serve more students as teachers form them into model citizens, Weivoda said.

“What drives me is making our next lawyers, doctors and engineers but also building parishioners who will attend this church and many other Catholic churches around the nation for years to come with a good, solid knowledge of their Catholic faith and how to live that out.”