Less than a year into its drive to raise money for a $6 million list of school expansion and improvement projects, St. Michael the Archangel High School is at the $1.5 million mark, one-fourth of the way to its goal, said Josh Galasso, advancement director for the school said last week.
Plans for the Continuing the Warrior Legacy Capital Campaign kicked off in February and includes a multipurpose building with a gymnasium, an auditorium and black box theater, a band hall with private practice rooms, plus offices and locker rooms for athletics, as well as campuswide improvements like covered drop-off areas, a glassed-in walkway to allow for dry travel across campus on rainy days, new paved parking areas and cosmetic updates to the front of the school.
While the ultimate goal is $6 million, the halfway point is a key number, Galasso said. Once the fund reaches $3 million, they’ll begin the process of securing financing, hiring a contractor and breaking ground on the new building.
That can’t come soon enough for Tyler Morrison, a junior at the school and a member of the basketball and track teams.
“Right now, we have one gym, so we have to rotate practices between the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams,” Morrison said. That generally means one team will be at practice as late as 8:30 p.m., so that everyone gets practice time in.
“If you’re in the late practice slot, you sometimes don’t get home until 9, plus you have to get homework done. It’s sometimes really hard to fit all that in,” he said. And if you’re in the earlier slot, there’s a cut-off time.
“We don’t complain about it, but if you want to do extra work on something in practice, you have to keep in mind that someone else needs the court right after you.”
Drama student Maya Kleinpeter, 17, said she and her classmates are excited about the prospect of a performance venue that holds all the school’s students, and a practice space better suited to the dramatic arts. “The cafeteria echoes,” she said. “So when you’re standing far away, and speak up to make yourself heard, it’s challenging,” she said. And while she believes working around challenges has helped her and her fellow thespians in many ways, “I’m really excited about a new practice space.”
If Morrison and Kleinpeter are able to use the new facility once it’s done, however briefly, both say it’s a matter of school pride to see the project started.
“And I’ll definitely be back for games after graduation,” Morrison said.
Fred Crifasi, a parent and member of the operational committee at St. Michael’s, has been part of the fundraising process from the start. “The conversations started a couple of years ago. There was a long and thorough process of determining what the school’s needs were,” he said.
“We got a lot of input, and we’ve had an incredible amount of support from members of the St. Michael’s community. It’s been mostly receptions and events at parents’ houses, some fundraisers from students and teachers,” he said.
“I suppose it’s the bad part and the good part,” Crifasi said. The private religious school relies on its own supporters to keep up with growth, he said, but every dollar is a vote of confidence for the school and its mission.
And that growth has been phenomenal to see over the years, said Jim Baldridge, a French teacher at the school who began his career at St. Michael’s when it opened in 1984.
“We started with two buildings — the main building and the cafeteria, and about 130 kids,” he said. Since then, enrollment has grown to 730 students in four grades, and they now have the primary gymnasium, where all physical education classes and practices are held, a field house, and a two-story fine arts building.
Currently, the band practices in a classroom inside the fine arts building, where Baldridge teaches his French classes. Transitional growing pains like these developed as the student population grew, and the school had to make use of every available inch of space.
“There’s some sound-proofing materials up in the room, which does help, but there’s not much you can do to muffle the sound of drums,” he said.
The Continuing Legacy Warrior Campaign marks a new transitional point as they look to the school’s future.
In addition to helping the concentration levels of other students during band practices, Galasso said, having band, theater and athletics offices in the new building will clear out more room for classes in the existing buildings.
The Mass at the school will move from the primary gym to the auditorium, Galasso said. The stage and black box theater will create venues to bring in guest speakers, hold group presentations and other performances.