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Central starts work on $7M project

After 165 years in Springfield, leaders at Catholic Central knew it was time for a change — and for their students to become more central.

The district broke ground Tuesday on a $7 million expansion at its East High Street location. The 34,000-square-foot project will allow them to centralize students in second through 12th grades onto one campus.

Eventually, the goal is to also house the preschool, kindergarten and first-grade students there, said Kenith Britt, Catholic Central president.

The private school system currently has a combined junior high and high school on East High Street, and two elementary schools in buildings owned by local parishes.

One of those elementary schools — either the former St. Teresa or St. Bernard — will close once the expansion is complete, school officials said. It’s still undecided which building will close.

One campus will allow more interaction between staff members and students for all grade levels, and more opportunities for older children to mentor those in lower grade levels. Given the age of the district’s buildings — its newest is the high school built in 1957 and the elementaries are more than 100 years old — the new facilities will also be more cost-effective and efficient, Britt said.

The project has been about 10 years in the making, although the district didn’t begin pursuing donations until the end of 2011.

About 360 donors contributed to the project. The goal was to raise $5 million, but it grew as the plans for what the campus could be expanded, Britt said.

“We set an aggressive $5 million goal and, thanks be to God and through the generosity of our donors, we ended up raising over $6.3 million,” he said.

Catholic Central is still campaigning to raise another $700,000 to replace boilers and windows in the high school and invest in technology. Part of that, Britt said, includes a state-of-the-art security system with cameras local police and emergency crews could log into should a safety concern arise.

Construction should be complete by the 2014-2015 school year.

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