New beginnings

Krystle Wagner • Nov 29, 2016 at 12:00 PM

SPRING LAKE — A dreary November morning didn’t dampen the cheerful and excited students and staff at St. Mary’s School on Monday.

Before classes got underway, everyone gathered around the school’s flagpole for a special prayer and brief ceremony to kick off the remaining portion of the school year in the new 23,000-square-foot, two-story education center.

After months of construction, Monday marked the first day of school for students in the new building.

As everyone gathered around the flagpole, Father Dave Gross of St. Mary’s Catholic Church recounted the steps that were taken to get where they are today.

This past January, St. Mary’s students watched as the former priest residence was demolished to make room for the new building. Construction crews officially broke ground on the $5.8 million project in March.

Along the way, students have watched out of their classroom windows as crews turned the bare land into the two-story building.

“And now it’s done,” Gross said.

Last week, staff members and volunteers moved items from the old building into the new school.

In the new building, the first floor houses preschool, kindergarten, and first- and second-grade classrooms. Grades 4-8 are on the second floor, along with science and art classrooms. Between classrooms, there are team rooms.

Seventh-grader Mia Clarke said she likes the building’s new design and the additional room.

“It’s bigger than I expected,” she said.

Over the next few weeks, crews will make the final touches and address items as needed.

Later this spring, the middle school portion of the former building will be demolished for green space and parking. The remaining part of the building will be converted into a food pantry.

Gross said they are blessed for the opportunity to build the new school, and they’re thankful for everyone who has put in efforts to make the plans come to fruition.

“We’re excited to be in and pleased things have gone as smoothly as they have,” said Principal Steve VanHammen.

To fund the school’s construction, St. Mary’s launched a building campaign in 2012. Community members can still get involved in the Mary, Seat of Wisdom Campaign and brick campaign. Bricks cost $150, and they will be placed outside the school’s entrance. For more information about the campaigns, call the parish office at 616-842-1702.

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