by Joe Bollig
LEAWOOD — Maybe they all should have worn shades at the blessing and groundbreaking on Feb. 14 for a new Parish Activities Center at Cure of Ars Parish here.
After all, the future’s so bright.
The future of the parish and the school is bright, indeed, because of demographic changes, said pastor Father Rick Storey.
“This area is booming. . . . The demographics show lots of families will be moving into this area in the next 20 years.”
Apartment complexes are being built on the former Meadowbrook Golf Course, and a lot of old baby- boomer-era ranch houses are being torn down and replaced with two-story homes for young families. A generational shift is occurring.
“The parish is turning over,” said Father Storey. “What was once an older parish is changing. We have a lot of baptisms, and children. Our school is vibrant and the public schools all around us are full.
“There are definitely a lot of new parishioners. We are ready to build for the future — and what a great future we have.”
The day was bright, too, and cold.
In fact, the single-digit temperatures led parish and school officials to move the first part of the ceremony into the church, mostly for the benefit of the hundreds of schoolchildren who attended.
The project consists of new construction and renovation of portions of the existing school. The goal is to complete all work by August, just before the beginning of school. The architect is Gould Evans Architects of Kansas City, Missouri. The general contractor is JE Dunn Construction of Kansas City, Missouri.
New construction will be the 12,700-square-foot Parish Activities Center, to be located on the southeast corner of the property. The stand-alone multipurpose building will have a gymnasium with bleacher seating, performance stage, catering (warming) kitchen, concession area, storage, restrooms and lockers.
Additionally, there will be improvements to greenspace and drainage with the new PAC. This will consist of landscaping along the east wall of the property, relocating the playground to the immediate west of the PAC and improvements to the current field area.
Two areas of the existing school will be renovated.
First, the existing gym will be transformed into a middle school, for seventh and eighth grades. It will have five new classrooms and a science lab, new restrooms, new lockers and a collaborative workspace for students.
The former classrooms in the cafeteria will be used as meeting space for the parish and school. The school’s electrical, plumbing and security infrastructure will be improved.
Second, improvements to the main entrance will include a secure entryway brought up to current standards, modifications and improvements to the office, and new conference space for meetings.
The total cost of the project will be between $10 and $12 million, said Bob Kolich, parish manager. Funding will come from the parish “Faith, Hope and Charity Campaign,” which has so far generated $8.3 million in pledges.
“We’re not looking to increase enrollment,” said Kolich. “We’re getting needed additional space. We need meeting space for the parish and additional classroom space for the school.”
Current enrollment, pre-K to eighth grade, is approximately 750.
“Curé of Ars School was built in phases,” said John Schwaller, chairman of the parish building committee. He and his wife Jennifer have three children in the school.
“The first buildings were built in the 1960-61 time frame. . . . The current school administration area is where the Sisters lived, and the architectural plans identify the ‘cells’ where they slept. There were later school additions in 1968 and 1998.”
Diversification of the school’s curriculum has generated the need for more classrooms, he said. Some non-homeroom classes have been meeting in hallways for the past several years — a difficult instructional environment for students and teachers alike.
With the addition of six new classrooms in the middle school, six classrooms will open up for the lower grades.
All parishioners will benefit from the project, according to Schwaller.
Specifically, the PAC will enable the parish to host larger events like wedding receptions and funeral dinners. The stage — a new amenity for Curé — will be a venue for the fall musical and other arts programs. The multipurpose room will serve as the school’s gymnasium and be used daily for physical education and on weekends for Catholic Youth Organization events.
There is strong support for the project.
“These new and updated spaces are certainly needed,” said Schwaller. “We started this process with a parishwide facilities survey published in the bulletin and online through our website and social media.
“There were hundreds of responses, and the top two needs identified were additional classrooms and meeting spaces. This provided the grassroots feedback for the building committee to understand priorities and create a project.”