By Maureen Smith
MERIDIAN – Community, school and parish leaders gathered Thursday, May 21, to celebrate Mass and cut the ribbon on a school expansion at St. Patrick School. The expansion, which includes three new classrooms and administrative offices, was six years in the making.
“The school had outgrown the facility,” said Jennifer David, principal. She explained that a committee started meeting to discuss options and raise the money needed for the plan. David started during the fifth year of the process and praises former principal Julie Bordelon, pastor Father Frank Cosgrove and the community for making the project possible.
The new addition is about more than just classrooms. “We needed to make advancements in technology and this helps. Each of the new classrooms is outfitted with an interactive smartboard. We can now start to get those for other classrooms as well,” David said.
The new office space is just one of three phases of improvements. “It’s like a domino effect has started,” said David. A crew will start renovations in the library this summer. The cafeteria manager had an office in the back of the library and the televisions and other school audio/visual equipment were stored there. “Once I move into the new administrative office, the cafeteria manager can move into my old office space and the equipment can move into a new space so we can open up and improve the library,” she said. In addition to taking out some half-walls to rearrange and streamline the space, a crew will paint the library.
The school has plans to add a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lab as well as purchase additional Chromebook tablets. This summer the school will also start work on a new playground, funded, in part, by a grant from the Catholic Foundation. The last part of the plan calls for a new canopy over the driveway and some fencing upgrades.
The school can also celebrate the fact that the money for the expansion was raised before the building was finished. “The people here are so supportive and generous to this school,” said David. She said Father Cosgrove has been a tremendous support to the community. “The school has been here for 150 years so there is a deep base of support, but more than that, I think people appreciate the value of Catholic education,” she said. “We are a diverse community – we have families from a variety of backgrounds and I think people appreciate that,” she added.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz celebrated a school Mass with Father Frank Cosgrove, pastor; Father Jose de Jesus Sanchez, associate pastor and newly-ordained deacon, Jason Johnston, who will spend the summer in Meridian. After the Mass everyone was invited to the front of the new building for a blessing ceremony. Meridian Mayor Percy Bland spoke at the blessing ceremony about his own Catholic education in Jackson and later at Xavier University in New Orleans. Representatives from LPK architects, CF Construction and project manager Ed Johnson were also on hand for the celebration. After the blessing, donors, students, teachers and community leaders toured of the school.