St. Francis High School renovation

A $3.5 million addition behind the St. Francis High School gymnasium is underway. When completed, each 900-square-foot instructional area in the new building will include interactive white boards, multi-media podiums with screens, sound systems, video and document camcorders. (Rendering courtesy of St. Francis High School / January 30, 2013)

Construction is set to begin on St. Francis High School's $3.5-million renovation project, which will bring cutting-edge technology to the 67-year-old college preparatory campus.

“Demolition started several weeks ago,” said Sam Longo, a Class of 1973 graduate of the school who is serving as co-chair of the school's “Innovations in Education” capital campaign. “Construction will begin any day now. It's moving forward.”

The heart of the project is a new three-classroom annex, which will be built as an addition behind the school gym. When completed, each 900-square-foot instructional area will include interactive white boards, multimedia podiums with screens, sound systems, video and document camcorders. Rolling carts will hold mobile computing devices such as iPads and laptop computers.

“What's most important about this phase is that not only is it adding additional classroom space, but it is finally implementing the new technology initiative at the school,” Longo said.

The new technology will enable the school to fully embrace its newest educational goal: student-centered, inquiry-based instruction. The consulting firm CDW Educational Collaboration is working with school administrators to implement the new initiative.

A model classroom to test the new technology and help teachers to integrate the technology into their courses is expected to be completed by late spring.

“We've always had technology on campus,” said Christine Smith, the school's development consultant. “But technology is now being integrated in college preparatory classes. It's a new way of learning.”

The construction project has been a long time coming for St. Francis, a fully accredited Catholic school founded by Capuchin Franciscan Friars in 1946. In late 1999, the school announced its initial capital campaign known as “Building Today for the Men of Tomorrow.”

That first phase brought the remodeling of the Fr. Lawrence Caruso Memorial Learning Center, the construction of the Degheri Performing Arts Center, the Norman Family Courtyard, the Angelo and Phyllis Mozilo Field House and a parking structure, and the renovation of the Fr. Alphonsus O'Connor Memorial Gymnasium.

The second phase of the capital campaign included the installation of an all-weather track, new home-side bleachers and the addition of FieldTurf on Friedman Field. Later, in 2005, the Fr. Matthew G. Elshoff OFM Cap. '73 Administration Building was dedicated after substantial improvements.

Altogether, $20 million was spent on renovations and remodeling construction from 1999 through 2005.

“It's exciting,” Smith said of the latest project. “It's the last piece of this master plan. In a way it's like running a marathon, and now we can see the finish.”

Donors are showing their enthusiasm through their financial generosity, she said.

“It's a broad support,” Smith said. “It's not just parents and alumni parents. This is a family. It's wonderful, and what's exciting is we have some younger alums, and they're making significant commitments and making sacrifices to make St. Francis first.”

The “Innovations in Education” project is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, Smith said.