Volunteers moved most of the school’s items into the Spring Lake parish’s new 23,000-square-foot, two-story education center. And the schools’ staff and the volunteers teamed up to get the classrooms set up and ready for the first day of classes in the new building on Nov. 28.
Construction crews broke ground on the $5.8 million project in March.
Kindergarten teacher Megan Johnson said she’s excited about the opportunity to move into a new and updated school that will benefit students.
“I think it’s a more welcoming and inviting space,” she said.
The first floor houses preschool, kindergarten, and first- and second-grade classrooms. The grades 4-8 classrooms are on the second-floor, along with art and science rooms.
Principal Steve VanHammen said the November move will allow them to have three weeks to finetune everything and address any items during the school’s winter break.
In the coming spring, the middle school wing of the former building will be demolished for green space and parking. The remaining portion of the building will be converted into a food pantry.
When first-grade teaching aide Cristin Czajka packed up the classroom, she said her mind drifted back to the people who started working at the older building more than 60 years ago. Since classes then didn’t have the technology of today’s world, Czajka said she wondered what classrooms will look like 60 years from now.
For 31 years, first-grade teacher Jan Bator taught students in the building on the corner of E. Exchange and Prospect streets. Although a little sad to leave her classroom, Bator said she felt differently as she got into her new room.
“It’s great,” she said.
Parents, families and St. Mary’s alumni joined the school’s staff to make the move on Monday. Czajka said it was “fantastic” having so many people helping and carrying things up the stairs to the older classrooms.
Parent volunteer Paul Carey, whose four children have attended St. Mary’s Catholic School, said his family made good memories in the older building, and students are looking forward to the new space.
Aside from a new building, students will also not have to travel from school to the church and back to school for classes such as music. Now, all students and their classes will be under one roof.
With the final touches being made in classrooms and throughout the building, Earl Martin, the school’s plant manager, said now it’s up to everyone to work on keeping the new space looking nice.
“It’s something we’ve needed for a long time, and it’s here,” he said.
To fund the school’s construction, St. Mary’s launched its Mary, Seat of Wisdom Campaign in 2012. Community members can still purchase bricks for $150. Bricks will be placed outside of the school’s entrance. For more information about the campaigns, call the parish office at 616-842-1702.