Saving the best for last, Sally Merriwether can barely contain her pleasure as she leads Assumption Catholic School visitors to the new classroom building.
Inside, even on a wintry day, students dressed in their blue and white Catholic school uniforms are bathed in light.
Sixth, seventh and eighth graders moved into the modern two-story building with white siding two weeks ago, signaling the end of a two-year building improvement program at the Indian Trail neighborhood parochial school.
Other renovations included tripling the size of the library, adding a computer lab with 17 computers and a full-time teacher, a new wood floor for the gym, more space for the preschoolers, and heating and air conditioning in the church.
It started in 1994 with a major fund-raiser that brought in $750,000. Labor and materials, from electrical work and painting to concrete, were donated.
In three hours one Friday evening in late January, a group of volunteers moved desks, chairs and books for the upper three grades and installed lockers. On Saturday morning, eight volunteers painted the library and computer room. Monday night volunteers set up the computers.
“With all of our shifting and moving, the students never missed a day of school,” says Merriwether.
Five years of money saved from candy and wrapping paper sales bought the computers.
Enthusiasm is so high at the school that teachers and students asked to extend their day 15 minutes to work more computer lab time into the schedule.
“We’re lucky, a lot of places don’t have classrooms this nice,” says student Tara Heitman, 12, an Assumption student since first grade.
“I like being separated from the younger classes,” adds Kim Ryan, 12.
Assumption School was built in 1958. Now, with 317 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and 17 teachers, the school is among the biggest Catholic schools in the city. The additional elbow room is appreciated.
The old library was the size of a large closet, with about as much light. Bookshelves were jammed. Only eight students at a time could crowd in.
The new version is bright and fresh, with ample room for 15 students.
“It looks like a lot more books,” says librarian Valerie Sonderen, admiring the rows of shelves. There’s even room for the videos that had to be stored in the principal’s office before.
While half the class is in the library, the other half settles into computer lab with Angie Sandman, the new technology teacher. Students learn not just how to use a computer, but how to put it to use in their daily work with databases, spreadsheets and gathering information from the Internet.
As Indian Trail has grown, so has Assumption Parish. On Sundays, parishioners overflow the parking lot. Cars line both sides of the road. The church has been granted a variance by the city, allowing parking during Mass, but that will soon end. The church is being forced to build a new parking lot.
The expansive, rolling front lawn and playground will be sacrificed for a concrete parking lot. The field and playground will be moved to the back of the school. Construction will probably start this summer.
Already, Assumption parishioners are ready to start phase two of their improvement program.
Another fund-raiser will be schedule to raise money for a new parish hall. The gym has served double duty as the parish hall since the early 1960s.
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