When Sacred Heart Cathedral School students begin classes Sept. 8, they’ll find that plenty of renovations have taken place over the summer at their 59-year-old building.
~by Dan McWilliams, East Tennessee Catholic
The school improvements, conducted while construction on a new cathedral was taking place next door, made it an exciting time for Daniel Breen as he starts his first year as SHCS principal.
“There are just a lot of wonderful things happening around here,” he said. “First of all, just the commitment to building a new cathedral makes this an amazing time to be here, and you really feel that you’re part of something really, really special and important. And then to be part of a school where we’re committed to providing the best for our students and creating the best environment possible—all of that has been just a blessing to be a part of. It is a little more complicated, but it’s just all so worth it in the end, so I’m just thrilled to be here.”
Sacred Heart Rector, Father David Boettner, detailed the work being done at his parish school. He and Mr. Breen have been fine-tuning the logistics of getting students and faculty back in school as cathedral construction continues.
“There are many things going on at the same time,” he said. “One of the things that’s going on right now is the renovation of the original school building that was built in 1956. And so what we did is we went into each of the classrooms and replaced the windows and the lighting and installed a sprinkler system. We renovated the bathrooms, so the bathrooms are all new in both the 100 and 200 wings.
“The classrooms have got a lot of updating. There are new cubbies in the classrooms, or cubicles for the kids’ books and bags and storage, and new HVAC systems. The new lighting is energy-efficient LED lighting, so the rooms are brighter and cooler, and they just feel great.”
Father Boettner and Mr. Breen have announced a new traffic-flow plan for parents as they drop off and pick up their children.
Mr. Breen and his staff will also be working in a brand-new area.
“We’ve also built a new administrative area for the school,” Father Boettner said. “We converted one section of the 100 wing to be our new entrance and administration area with a new sidewalk and covered awning. We’re also opening up the area back by the 200 wing just to have a little more light and a little more outdoor space for the kids, so that’s going to be exciting too.”
The new entrance has the most up-to-date technology, Mr. Breen said.
“We have this beautiful new portico for our students to enter, and we’ll be ready to use this brand-new entrance by Nov. 1, no later than that,” he said. “And so it’s got double doors and the latest technology in school safety, and so when a visitor comes in, they can come into our office area here to check in, but they have to be buzzed in in order to enter the school, so they’re actually buzzed in twice in order to enter the school—that’s a little redundancy for extra school security.”
Students’ online access will be much improved after the renovations.
“In the 100 wing, since we literally had the roof off the school, we had a great opportunity to invest in the infrastructure of technology, and so we’ve rewired Internet completely throughout the school,” Mr. Breen said. “We’ll have a much faster, more reliable Internet system for the school, and we’ve invested in new technology in these new classrooms as well. We’ll have centers for iPads in first grade and second grade and a center for Chromebooks in all of the third-grade classrooms, so we’re doing some neat things with technology.”
The start of school at SHCS has been delayed somewhat because of the renovations.
“School starts on Sept. 8, which is also the anniversary of our diocese, but that’ll be our first day of school,” Father Boettner said. “Since we’re starting a little bit later, we won’t be taking a fall break this year, and we’ll end just a little bit later in the spring, but we’re going to make up quite a bit of time during the school year so that our kids still get out at a fairly reasonable time and have a great school year.”
The source of funding for the SHCS work is the parish’s Home Campaign.
“In our capital campaign, the Home campaign, the cathedral’s goal for raising money to build the new cathedral was $8 million, and so we set ourselves a stretch goal of $10 million so that we could also address two other priorities in addition to building a new cathedral, and those two priorities were educational spaces and social spaces,” Father Boettner said.
“And so part of the funds that we raised in the Home campaign are helping us to renovate the existing school building, the 100 wing, and then we’ll also renovate the existing cathedral when the new cathedral is completed, so those priorities are funded by that extra $2 million we raised in our capital campaign as well as donations from alumni and parents and donors who want to support our ministry of education.”
The school is only part of the education ministry at Sacred Heart, Father Boettner said.
“We also have a very vibrant adult faith-formation program called Café that takes place on our Wednesday evenings and the weekends,” he said. “We also have religious education as part of that program, our Cathedral Kids, and so we’re involved in the educational ministry in a lot of ways. We also participate in our community by helping with citizenship classes, by hosting other community education events here, so there’s a wide variety of things that take place within these walls.”
Photos courtesy: Dan McWilliams, Pam Rhoades