Thursday, December 11, 2003

St. Pius X parish invests in school

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

Julie Abeling teaches her kindergartners at St. Pius X School in a small, isolated room in the back of the parish hall. The only warmth comes from a couple of space heaters. There are no windows.

It has been their classroom since February. But relief is coming.

"We'll have great, huge windows," said Abeling. "We'll have more space, more accessibility and nice colors to stimulate the children."

Two new kindergarten classrooms are just a couple of the amenities in the parish's $8 million building project that will double space to 80,000 square feet.

Planning started four years ago, when the Rev. Robert Wehage arrived as pastor.

"I listened to what the people needed, and one of the clear needs was more space," Wehage said.

Construction began in March, and everything's due to be finished by spring.

The project will benefit about 2,000 families in the parish and 650 students in the school.

Not to mention those who will attend functions there.

An activity center opened in September. It's used for physical education classes during the day and sports leagues at night. When the new gym is finished, the center will host more non-sports events - such as school plays and youth group activities.

"The ideas are endless of what we can do with this building," said Mike Walker, general manager of the parish. "We want to be not only a home to the parishioners, but to the community as well."

The gym will seat more than 300 and accommodate sports teams that have had to rely on nearby schools' gyms for home-court advantage.

In the school, the new library is twice the old one's size and has a state-of-the-art media and computer center.

A music room is down the hall, and two science labs are under construction.

The 15-year-old church also got a bit of a face lift with a 50-seat cry room added in the back.

And with the exception of the stand-alone parish activity center, all of the buildings on the 23-acre campus will be connected.

"The kids have always had to go outside to get to the church," said principal Elizabeth Trenkamp. Staff used to monitor 15 school entrances. That'll be cut to about half, she said.

More than $5 million was raised for the project. Church officials are considering another fund-raiser to make up the difference.

Early on, 83 percent of the parishioners said they would support the project financially. Doug and Nancy Armbruster have done just that.

"It's going to be a great value - now and in the future," said Nancy, who has two kids in the school now and two more who will attend when old enough. "We're going to be there a long time. For us, it's a long-term investment."


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