St. Mary's school plans addition to ease crowding

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Parishioners at St. Mary Cathedral have been saying the same prayer every day for two years, asking for aid with the fundraising, safety and mission of the parish's new construction project, said the Rev. Thomas Kiefer.

After five years of planning and several months of fundraising, the church will break ground on a $1.9 million addition to its school Sunday. The school on William Street serves about 250 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

About five years ago the church started conducting surveys to evaluate the support for a renovation and expansion project. In September, members of the congregation engaged in a fundraising campaign drawing from the congregation's 1,100 families.

"It's not a rich parish, but a lot of good people sacrifice," Kiefer said.

Three-year pledges will fund the first phase of the project, a 19,000-square-foot addition to the school.

The church youth group, parent association and various committees worked to raise funds, said Dick Dirnberger, co-chairman of the fundraising committee with Clyde Nenninger. Through phone calls, house calls, brochures and receptions directed toward members of the parish, the groups have raised about $2 million, he said.

"Of course, we've been praying every day," he said.

The addition will run along the east side of the current building, containing eight classrooms and an office. Part of the project's second phase includes renovations of the old building to convert the space into a computer lab, music room, art room, nurses station and library.

"We have those things already, but everybody's kind of on top of each other because of space limitations," Kiefer said.

The main part of the current building was constructed in 1912. The school's most recent addition in 1978 included a gym and kindergarten room.

Principal Carol Strattman said the school's smaller, outdated classrooms limit the technology available to students.

"We have to be very creative with what gets plugged in where," she said.

There will be bigger classrooms in the addition, freeing the old building to house other classes, she said.

"We have a Spanish class that's meeting in the music room and an art class that meets in the cafeteria," she said.

She said the school has about 50 more students than it did 10 years ago. The school is not planning to increase its enrollment, preferring to preserve its small-school learning atmosphere, she said. The construction plans allow for one classroom per grade.

"I think the feeling is we don't want it to get too large," she said.

Sunday's blessing and groundbreaking ceremony will be conducted by Bishop James Vann Johnston of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese. The ceremony will be at 9:30 a.m. between the church and school in the Ave Maria Fountain Garden.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

615 William St. Cape Girardeau, MO

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