Groundbreaking for Holy Family Catholic School (new campus)

30 September 2003 article by JOE BUTLER, Cd'A Press Staff writer

Catholic grade school anticipates construction of new, larger building

Gone will be the Wednesdays when the students have to eat in their classrooms because a group of senior citizens is playing pinochle in the students' cafeteria.

Also a thing of the past will be the last-minute shuffling of the kids at Holy Family Catholic School because St Thomas Catholic Church needs room for a funeral reception.

Instead, as of next fall, students will have their very own cafeteria and kitchen, plus a gym, music room, chapel and a computer lab.

"It's exciting, and it might be a little dirty, but it's a blessing, that's for sure," said Mary STEWART, director of development for the school.

The dirt she's referring to will be of the construction variety, which will be seen in abundance Wednesday morning when ground is broken for a new home for the area's only Catholic grade school. Holy Family is now housed at the St Thomas parish center, though occasionally it adjusts its needs to accommodate the church's needs.

The ceremony begins at 10 am at the 10-acre lot the school owns at the corner of Kathleen Avenue and Atlas Road. Principal Karen DURGIN said work will already be under way.

"They'll be building as we're doing our groundbreaking," she said.

If everything is on schedule with general contractor Leone and Keeble, the 34,000-square-foot school will open next fall (2004).

"The reason there is so much excitement is how hard we have worked at this and how desperately we need a new building," Durgin said. "It is not frivolous, and is extremely needed."

A permanent home has been a priority for Holy Family even before the first class was held in the fall of 1996.

Two years earlier, organizers knew St Thomas would only be a temporary home, and the student body would soon exceed capacity.

The first year, there were 58 students from kindergarten to third grade. This year, there are 198 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade, a 9 percent increase from 2002.

School officials added portable classrooms, and have to split up the classes to use the 12 computers in the lab. After-school parking lot duty usually takes the whole staff plus a few volunteer parents.

"We've increased so much -- we're bulging," DURGIN said.

Stewart, who has headed up the construction campaign, said the ultimate goal is $3.8 million, and more than $1 million has been raised since the school began.

She and other school officials secured the property several years ago, but decided to hold off starting work until enough money was raised. For many months, they had an estimate of what the project would cost, but no actual price tag.

"We weren't sure we were ready to start until earlier this month," STEWART said.

They found a price that satisfied them, and even better, a low interest rate for a building loan.

"Pretty much the minute we got that price, we said 'let's build next week,'" she said.

The capital campaign will continue until the loan is paid off, but one of the hard parts is over.

School staff hopes to make the new facilities available for activities for Catholic parishes in the county, along with any other community programs.

"We do want the building used by everyone," STEWART said.

DURGIN said the school wouldn't be where it is now without the help of the Kootenai County community.

Parents, staff, board members and area residents have been extremely generous.

She wanted to single out Coeur d'Alene residents Ellen (MATSON '68) & Jerry '66 JAEGER who have been strong supporters since the school first came together.

Both of them attended Immaculate Heart of Mary, a previous area Catholic school, and they encouraged IHM alums at a reunion to join them in supporting Holy Family.

"Their donations led the way for others to help," DURGIN said. "It set a precedent and started it all off."

The school is in the middle of its annual fund-raising campaign, and is also looking for items for its very successful February auction.

There is also another group they want to single out -- the students. They have been active in fund-raising, and even wrote a song.

"We wanted them to have ownership for all their hard work," STEWART said. "We're also inviting past students to know that their hard work will be benefiting the students who came after them."

Information: 208-765-4327, or Holy Family Catholic School.

View original story and photo in Cd'A Press.