By Elizabeth Lowe
BUCKEYSTOWN – Diane Favret was so excited for St. John’s Catholic Prep to open at its new location she hardly slept the night before.
Favret, the high school’s executive director of institutional advancement, said the move “has been a long time coming.”
St. John’s relocated six miles from Frederick to its new Buckeystown campus, which opened Jan. 14.
The first day in the new building – which smelled of fresh paint – was smooth, said Gordon Oliver, St. John’s president, as photos were still being hung and floor mats were put into place.
The Frederick County school and property were formerly occupied by St. Thomas More Academy, a pre-K-8 school that relocated to Middletown for the current school year.
St. John’s paid St. Thomas More Academy $4.7 million for the property and building, said Greg Harraka, chairman of St. John’s board of directors and a parent of three St. John graduates. St. John’s also owns an adjoining 46 acres to its new site.
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Construction included new floor tiles in hallways, lockers, bathrooms outfitted for older students, reconfigured spaces and a new gym floor, Favret said. Amenities include new computer and science labs, overhead projectors in classrooms and a cafeteria.
Baseball and softball fields are being developed, Harraka said. For now, the teams will use the facilities at its former site.
“This new facility gives us a home for the next 100 years,” Harraka said. “We’re really excited about being able to stay in the community and provide a Catholic education for all who seek it.”
Construction and renovation cost $1.8 million, Harraka said. St. John’s has entered a contract to sell its former location for $4.5 million. The centuries-old Prospect Hall mansion will remain, but the property is expected to be developed for residential use.
St. John’s, established in 1829, had been at the mansion since 1958, but outgrew the Prospect Hall campus, said Oliver, who noted that at 40,000 square feet, the new building is 10,000 square feet smaller than the former location, but the space is better utilized and more efficient space.
More than 150 volunteers moved “lock, stock and barrel” from Frederick to Buckeystown Jan. 2-11, Oliver said.
St. John’s has 262 students, but can accommodate more than 140 additional students, Oliver said.
Sophomore Michael Bealmear said the new building “just feels nicer.”
Paul McNickle, a theology and geology teacher at St. John’s for 18 years, is thrilled with the move.
“I’m very, very excited,” McNickle said. “My classroom is 50 percent bigger. Everything is better.”
McNickle, who likes the additional space and lack of steps, said “we’re blessed to be here.”
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori is expected to dedicate and bless St. John’s new building Feb. 22.
Copyright (c) Jan. 15, 2013 CatholicReview.org