Notre Dame Preparatory students pose alongside Fr. John Parks, chaplain for a ceremonial groundbreaking Feb. 12. (courtesy photo)
Notre Dame Preparatory students pose alongside Fr. John Parks, chaplain for a ceremonial groundbreaking Feb. 12. A three-phase construction project calls for additional parking, a sports complex and a performing arts center. (courtesy photo)

SCOTTSDALE — If it takes a village to raise a child, then it must take far more than that to simultaneously prepare 855 of them for life as an adult.

So many key figures have paved the way for Notre Dame Preparatory expansion, that when the North Scottsdale campus held a groundbreaking Feb. 12, it took five rounds of photos featuring 14 golden shovels and white hard hats in each of them to get all the representatives covered.

The groundbreaking symbolically marked the start of a roughly $9 million, three-phase project that begins with sorely-needed parking lots. It will also provide access roads and infrastructure for future construction west of the existing campus.

Notre Dame, which took over a private school campus in 2002, will then see its own sports complex finally offer the Saints true “home field” advantage. Some 60 percent of student athletes commute off-site for practice and games.

The school has endured a lifetime paying rental fees.

C.J. Harvey, a senior and member of the football team, told underclassmen during the groundbreaking how fortunate they would be to rush the field on their own turf once the second phase is complete. He also saluted the donors who “took a leap of faith and ignited a spark for the campaign.”

They have raised $4.2 million so far. That’s roughly the same amount needed to finish the project’s third phase: a 1,200-seat fine arts center with the ability to add 300 more as needed for plays, Masses, graduations and other large gatherings. Art and music classrooms will be part of the center, something seen with similar buildings which opened at St. Mary’s High School in 2007 and Seton Catholic Preparatory High School in Chandler in 2011.

“We are sitting either at the end of a sports complex or the beginning of a performing arts complex,” David Gonsalves, principal told the crowd.

A fair mix of students, alumnae, parents, community leaders and key figures in the capital campaign gathered for the groundbreaking. The rest of Notre Dame’s Saints watched the events from their classroom via closed circuit television.

Gonsalves said while the physical work in the coming months will involve dirt, concrete and heavy equipment, the real task is preparing the site for future leaders — those with morals, ethics, values and a sense of reverence, respect and responsibility.

“All of these new facilities are classrooms,” Gonsalves said, hinting at the athletic fields that won’t have walls.

Notre Dame is so much about building minds, bodies and souls that Gonsalves stresses to teachers, “Your job is not to teach subjects. It’s to reach students.”

Fr. Greg Schlarb, vicar of stewardship for the diocese, briefly reflected on his days at his preparatory campus in South Africa and the importance of returning there every five years. It provided him a foundation, he said — along with a notable American bandleader – but the buildings, like the ones slated for Notre Dame, aren’t erected overnight.

“You are now enjoying the fruits of someone else’s labor. The generosity is now up to you,” Fr. Schlarb said.

The students, faculty, staff and community are trying to raise another $5.5 million by May to begin the approval process for phase two.

Quoting one of Notre Dame’s founding teachers and coaches who passed away a year ago, Harvey, one of the coach’s athletes said, “Let’s get after it.”