Derby-Rose Hill Parish gets OK to build new school

An artist’s rendering of the proposed school for St. Mary School. Brett Prather of Architectural Innovations is the architect for the project.

By Davi Stuhlsatz
Bishop Michael O. Jackels has given St. Mary Parish, Derby/Rose Hill, permission to build a new school.
Father Wayne Schmid received excited applause when he announced at Masses on Dec. 12 and 13 that Bishop Jackels had approved a diocesan loan, enabling the parish to move forward on a $8 million construction plan it has been working toward for many years.
“While our academics are excellent, faith formation is the primary reason for constructing a new school,” said Father Schmid. “This will give us much needed space for children and for adults, too, who will benefit from using the library and classrooms after school hours for scripture study and adult faith formation.”
Groundbreaking is planned for late April. Construction is expected to be complete so classes can begin at the new 55,000 square foot facility in August 2011. Parishioner Josh Kippenberger will serve as project manager.
The new school will adjoin the Faith Center at 2300 E. Meadowlark, with two classrooms per grade, preschool through eighth grade. It will replace the current structure at 618 N. Derby, which opened its doors in fall 1954.
Principal Richard Montgomery said the approval was wonderful news. “This project has required work, sacrifice, and patience by everyone in the parish, but then, most good things in life do. We are very excited about the new facility and all of us on the school staff are very appreciative of what our parish has had to do to get us to this point. We feel very blessed.”
Teacher and parishioner Bethany Ramsey said the announcement was the result of a team effort. “It takes all of us in the parish community to not only raise the money to build the school, but also to build and nurture each child that attends our school. I am so happy and grateful that the bishop has given us his blessing. The new facility will give us more space which is greatly needed and will help us build upon what we have already started here.”
Costly repairs, lack of handicap accessibility, and overcrowding were some of the issues that led the parish to pursue building a new school. The current school enrollment of 306 students includes preschool, two classrooms per grade for prekindergarten through fifth grade, and middle school classes. Three portables, which house six classrooms, have been purchased in recent years to accommodate growing enrollment. The commons area where students have lunch will have the capacity to seat 500 people for parish functions as well.
“The new library will be a true media center, nearly four times the size of our present library, with a technology lab, computers for research and centers for reading stories or having group activities,” Montgomery said.
Parishioners have worked on the project for many years and have pledged or given $2 million through stewardship and informal parish appeals.
Build it NOW, a building campaign conducted by the parish last summer by The Steier Group of Omaha, Neb., brought the total to $3.9 million. Katie McHenry and Brian DuLac chaired the building campaign.
Father Schmid, Montgomery and Andrea Eastman, parish administrator, met with the architect and general contractor to move forward the day after they received the final approval from the bishop.
“We want to lock in the lower construction prices right now,” Eastman said. “Another consideration is the $847,000 FEMA grant we received to build the library and music room as safe rooms in the event of severe storms. It must be used by December 2011.”
Once students and staff move into the new building in 2011, the parish hopes to sell the current facilities and property at 618 and 722 N. Derby to help pay off the construction debt.
The school is the second phase in a master plan that saw the completion of the Faith Center in October 2005. After the school is complete, the third piece of the plan, a new church, is next on the agenda.
“Of the many reasons we are excited about our new site, the main one is that we will be on site again as a parish, to worship together, share in fellowship and nurture our journey of faith. God has blessed us with a wonderful parish for over 50 years. His gift of this building is encouragement that his work is not done,” Montgomery said.