A place for everything: St. Mary Cathedral School's new addition should be ready for students this fall

Thursday, April 22, 2010
Eric Richardet of Midwest Painting and Wall Covering works on sanding the walls in the newly-built section of St. Mary's School in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Wednesday, April 21, 2010. The addition, which is set to open in about six weeks, will include eight classrooms, offices, a gym lobby and concession stand, and will provide much needed space for the school's students and teachers. (KRISTIN EBERTS)

Students at St. Mary Cathedral School have an evolving math lesson going up next to their building.

Math teacher Debbie Welker takes her students to the school's construction site and brings in construction managers to go over architectural plans. Students calculate the number of bricks it takes to cover the wall, compare square footage of classrooms and identify geometric shapes.

"They even pointed out that a porta potty is a rectangular prism," she said.

A 19,000-square-foot addition containing eight classrooms is going up next to the school on South Sprigg Street. It connects to the current building, and the two will share an elevator. In most classrooms, students can see signs of construction through the windows.

Welker said students have been taking pictures and monitoring progress along the way.

Sixth-grade students in Tom Howard's class are anxiously awaiting the opening of the newly-built section of St. Mary's School in Cape Girardeau. The addition will include eight classrooms, offices, a gym lobby and concession stand, and will provide much-needed space for the school's students and teachers. The sixth-graders have even incorporated the construction into their math lessons by taking measurements and calculating things like volume and square footage of the new part of the building. (KRISTIN EBERTS)

"They ask me every day, 'Can we go?'" she said.

The parish engaged in a three-year pledge campaign to raise more than $2 million for the project, which broke ground in June.

Principal Carol Strattman said the project is expected to be finished in June and will be ready for students in the fall.

She said the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school averages more than 25 students per grade. Since the building's construction nearly 100 years ago, students and technology have outgrown the rooms. She said the addition contains classrooms that are twice the size of current ones and will accommodate more technology.

"The space is just absolutely the biggest thing," she said. "We are just really on top of each other here."

In Tom Howard's sixth-grade classroom, a desktop computer sits in the corner. There is little room and few outlets for additional technology.

"The room, just over the years, seems to have shrunk," he said.

Although the high ceilings and hardwood floors remind him of the classrooms he grew up in, he said he is looking forward to the perks of the new space, like having a smart board.

"It's like moving into a new house," Howard said.

The rooms in the current school will be used for specialty classes like art and Spanish that do not have a rooms. Students eat lunch next to drying racks and art supplies because the cafeteria doubles as the art room.

"It will give us the luxury of having space for everything we need," Strattman said.

The project is part of a multiphase reconfiguration. Strattman said the parish has plans for renovations and to build an addition to connect the school with the church, projects it will consider when the current construction is finished.

The two-level expansion hooks onto the gym and runs along the kindergarten addition. First through fifth grade will be housed on the top level while sixth, seventh and eighth grades will move into the first-floor classrooms, she said.

The new space also includes a new lobby for the school gym, an office, a conference room and nurse's station.

"Right now if a child is sick, they lie on that little bench in the office," she said.

abusch@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

210 S. Sprigg St. Cape Girardeau, MO

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