Long-awaited gym and fine arts facilities begin to develop at St. John the Evangelist School
By ANDREW NELSON, Editor-in-Chief | Posted on September 4, 2015
HAPEVILLE â David Ordner, wearing a white hard hat, stood on the grassy lawn and pointed to the place where the woods once surrounded St. John the Evangelist School and the convent of the Sisters of Mercy who taught there. . He shared memories of his years at school.
The graduating class of 1967 now thinks about when the construction company he founded will move his heavy equipment to the school grounds in Hapeville. For him, winning this construction contract was important.
âTo make this work in our backyard, especially a heritage project like this, it means so much,â said Ordner, who grew up nearby but now lives in Duluth and attends St. Monica’s Church.
He’s licensed in 30 states, but this project is more special than most, he said.
âThis is a legacy project. This is the one I wanted to do, âhe said after the inauguration ceremony on August 27 which turned shovels of dirt.
This construction project will be the first addition to the school’s campus in 14 years.
âWe believe this will enrich every aspect of school life – the arts, community events, academic competitions,â said Principal Karen Vogtner. âThere is so much we can do. “
The $ 4.1 million construction project aims to alleviate the lack of space in the 315-student school. It will add a multi-purpose facility, convert the existing sports building into art and music classrooms, improve circulation around the school, and increase parking. Lyman, Davidson, Dooley, Inc., is the architectural firm for the project.
Full gym area, arts facilities
St. John the Evangelist School, which opened in 1954, is in its 60th year. Twice a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, the K-8 facility has had a waiting list each for the past five years.
In 1988 the school gymnasium was built. From the start it was smaller than a regulation-sized gymnasium, and it grew even smaller, about a third the size of a full gymnasium, when the school’s art program arranged a small classroom.
âIt didn’t fit our needs, but it was until we could do something about it,â Vogtner said. âWe’ve always had this in our long-term strategic plan. “
For art teacher Karen Rorabaugh, the new fine arts wing will allow students to develop their artistic abilities. The eight-year-old teacher is delighted that there is a dedicated kiln room, as the pottery kiln has not been used much due to lack of space.
âHaving space, making a mess by working with clay and using the kiln will be great,â she said.
Students will also have service opportunities, such as organizing fundraisers for nonprofit organizations. Bowls made by students could be purchased by people who have a simple meal of soup and bread. The product could go to a pantry, she said.
St. John the Evangelist students host their home track and field matches at the nearby Hapeville Recreation Center. With the new facility, the goal is to invite neighboring schools on campus to collaborate on academics, science camps and sports.
There will be a performing arts stage, a concession store and a gymnasium for school events. The school now relies on the church sanctuary for its programs, which can lead to unfortunate double bookings when school events and funerals collide.
âWe don’t adapt anywhere except the church. If we’re putting on a talent show, it has to be in sacred space, âVogtner said.
The project will also allow the school’s parking spaces to be doubled. This will eliminate idling cars from residential streets, which can cause traffic jams for neighbors.
Give to school “in the blink of an eye”
The inauguration took place on Thursday, August 27, starting with morning mass for students, parents and school supporters with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
âGod has great things in store for us through this project,â said Father Michael Onyekuru, the pastor.
He said the project will contribute to the overall development of students but also parishioners and all who will use the facility.
Archbishop Gregory prayed for the protection of the workers and thanked the benefactors for this “priceless gift”.
âBless the minds, hearts and hands of those who will be involved in building this facility,â he prayed. âKeep them all out of harm’s way. “
The property has been blessed with holy water. The students then joined the Archbishop by being the first to return the earth; then school, civic and business leaders had their turn. Hapeville Mayor Alan Hallman called the school “magic” and part of the fabric of the local community.
The arrival of heavy equipment is scheduled for October to start the real work. A small shrine of the Virgin Mary will be moved to a new location on campus. The earthworks will reshape a small hill to erect the enrichment building, which should be ready next fall. Ordner said he would like to push construction forward so eighth graders can complete their education in the new building.
Donors make contributions for personal reasons. An outdoor patio for young artists is paid for by a school parent to honor her suddenly deceased husband. Vogtner and his family donate to beautify a yard in honor of their parents and in-laws.
The school was built on the sacrifice of others, so it’s time for people today to support the school in its future, said Vogtner. The director said the target was $ 4.1 million, with some $ 2.4 million raised.
Once the new building is completed, attention will shift to the existing gymnasium. It will be converted into a fine arts wing. Classes will be devoted to art and music.
MaryJean Griffin, who spent 42 years at the school, including 13 as a vice-principal, was the first to contribute to the construction campaign.
She drove four hours from Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend the ceremony.
âI would definitely do itâ for school, she said.
School is a place of faith, she said. School administrators kept the legacy of the Mercy Sisters who served here alive, she said.
With the ceremonial shovels put away, adults and youth, like Morgan Grier, collected soil from souvenir boxes distributed by the school. She is just starting her studies in kindergarten. She will enjoy the new facility for years to come.
âI think it’s a rewarding experience, not just for the school but for the community,â said her mother, Michelle Grier of Atlanta. “It brings the school and the community together in an incredible way.”