STEM Center Construction is Underway!

07-02-2023Pastor's LetterVery Rev. Richard C. Wilson, VF, Pastor

Dear Friends in Christ,

We had an exciting event last Thursday in the life of our parish and school! Bishop Fabre was here and blessed and led the groundbreaking for the STEM Center at Saint Mary Help of Christians Catholic School. It was moving to see students from the school out there with hardhats breaking ground as well! What a marvelous and incredible event for our parish and school! Here are some critical details about our new Center.

St. Mary’s new STEM Center is located at the corner of York and Richland Avenues. The new building will be connected to the existing campus via a sky bridge and will be approximately 18,000 square feet. The Center will encompass state-of-the-art computer and information technologies designed to revolutionize the learning experience of the students. There are seven classrooms, two large open collaborative learning areas, a 150-seat lecture hall, an outdoor laboratory with a retention pond, as well as conference/work rooms.

The key aspects of the Center are: 1) flexibility – the spaces are open, with minimal fixed furnishings, allowing the teachers to adapt and design the learning environments as technology evolves; 2) capacity – the information technology infrastructure (fiber, cable, and associated conduits) is sized to accommodate the large increases we envision needing for decades to come; and 3) scalability – the ability to link and integrate the technology of the Center with the existing campus and future buildings.

The cost of the Center is estimated at just under seven million dollars. Through the amazing generosity of our parish and community, we have raised over $7.4 million in cash and pledges. Construction will begin in July with completion targeted for August 2024. This represents the largest investment in the school since its inception. With the fundraising above the construction estimate, we were able to upgrade technology in the existing building that will be linked to the Center. This summer we are installing an integrated PA, phone, and camera system. This system, with call buttons in every classroom, will significantly enhance the safety and security environment of the school.

We are focused on a STEM curriculum in the Center with coding, robotics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, visualization, etc. being some of the core subjects. However, we will utilize the information technologies in the Center to enhance the learning experiences in the Arts as well. The collaborative learning spaces will be utilized for project learning to increase the collaboration and team-work skills of the students. The outdoor lab can be used to teach aquatic biology, water management, and atmospheric sciences.

Does this sound exciting to you? It does to me! I am so grateful to all who contributed so generously to this project! May we be faithful to pray for the successful completion of this important project. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

All the best…in Christ,

Father Wilson