Xavier Elementary consolidates campuses under one roof
by Kara Hansen
Special to the Leaven
LEAVENWORTH – When Xavier Elementary School here moves to its newly renovated building and opens for classes the first time this August, the experience will be a downright luxury for many families.
For 30 years, Xavier has operated out of three separate buildings for kindergarten through eighth grade. Add in a student at the preschool — in another building still — and the drop-off and pickup for families could get a little hairy.
“The response from parents has been very positive,” said Barb Ferrara, president of Leavenworth Regional Catholic Schools (LRCS). “Many parents are very excited for all their children to be together in one building, and they are thrilled with the prospect of one drop-off and one pickup.”
When the Catholic churches of Leavenworth combined each of their parish schools 30 years ago to become Xavier Elementary, none of the individual buildings was big enough to house all the students in kindergarten through eighth grade. In an attempt to use what they already had available, buildings at each parish were used to house several grade levels.
But it became clear through a twoyear process that the system was far from ideal. Building maintenance, utility bills and administrative staff were three times what they would need to be if all nine grade levels were housed together.
“It has always been in our strategic plan to identify the needs that are present, and it became very clear that if we were to consolidate the buildings into one school, we would save money and resources, and we could be a better steward of what we do have,” said Ferrara.
Though original plans by the LRCS board of trustees called for staying at one of the existing school sites and building an addition, or demolishing and building a new school on an existing site, none of the spaces was large enough to meet the school’s needs. But a former Leavenworth public elementary school was for sale — and fit a lot of Xavier’s needs.
“It’s the former Muncie School building, which sits on 16 acres of land at Hughes and Muncie Road, behind the University of Saint Mary,” said Ferrara.
The Steier Group of Omaha, Neb., a national fundraising and development group, was hired by LRCS to conduct a feasibility study and help lead a capital campaign.
“The feasibility study we did in August of 2010 showed a positive response to the idea of purchasing and renovating this school building,” said T.J. Isaaces, campaign manager for the Steier Group.
With approval from the archdiocese — and plans to give the building a markedly Catholic identity — the building was purchased in the summer of 2010 and a full-blown $3.5 million capital campaign is underway.
Currently, LRCS has 265 students enrolled from kindergarten through eighth grades.
Future plans for the new Xavier Elementary allow for growth, with enrollment capabilities of up to 410 students.
Though the new space creates many opportunities for growth down the road at Xavier, archdiocesan superintendent of schools Kathy O’Hara said the benefit of housing all grade levels together would be immediate.
“I believe that the educational experience of the students at Xavier will be greatly enhanced by the consolidation into a single facility. Research shows that the traditional Kto-8th-grade-in-one-facility model of Catholic schools leads to greater student academic achievement and emotional and spiritual development, in addition to saving financial resources,” said O’Hara.
“The fewer transitions from building to building that students have to make allows for less disruption in the academic program and, thus, allows them to move between grade levels without unnecessary repetition and review,” she said.
“Also, having all the school community together allows for greater collaboration among teachers, and this results in better communication about student learning and other needs,” she added. Plans include the building of a gymnasium with locker rooms, a commons area for students, and a new cafeteria with a warming kitchen. Renovations will include creating a chapel and enhancing the building’s exterior with a new sign and cross. Additional renovations will be made to classrooms and a media center.
“Several of our school parents are contractors and have offered to provide electrical services and painting to us at cost, as well as electrical fixtures. It’s really exciting to see people coming together and pitching in,” said Ferrara.
The capital campaign is entitled “For the Next 150 Years: A Campaign for Catholic Education in Leavenworth County.” The campaign will kick off in area parishes this month, following the end of the Archbishop’s Call to Share, and will continue for three years. Already, $1 million has been raised toward the future plans.
“I am delighted that the Leavenworth Regional Catholic community is supporting this initiative because it will strengthen the already high quality Catholic education available there,” said O’Hara. “The community should be commended for its dedication to Catholic schools and for its effort in this campaign.”
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