St. James breaks ground today on new school

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$10.5 million structure expected to open in fall of 2012

By Ben Sheroan

With schoolchildren, local governmental leaders and the archbishop all participating, St. James School plans a gala groundbreaking today for its $10.5 million school building.

The primary and middle schools, now divided by Poplar Drive, will unite in what is the first building on the parish’s 50-acre site on RobinBrooke Boulevard.

Eliminating the need for students to cross the street daily “was one of the big selling points in our capital campaign,” the Rev. Chuck Walker said.

The entire parish community is excited about the 70,000-square-foot “shining and new” school building, he said. That enthusiasm will be on display at a groundbreaking ceremony that begins at 2 p.m. today.

Students have been selected to take part in each phase of the ceremony, including sixth-grader Jackson Pawley. He will represent the Class of 2013, which is expected to be the first eighth-graders to graduate from the new building.

The son of Greg and Susan Pawley, he was selected to present a ceremonial shovel to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who will turn the first dirt. Walker said the shovel then will be returned to Pawley for the same purpose.

In turn, representatives of each current class at St. James will present a shovel to local dignitaries or parish representative during the 35-minute dedication ceremony, which also will feature scripture reading, prayer and music.

Actual earth moving and construction is about two weeks away, said Bob Zoglmann, the former parish business manager who will oversee the work. Thus far, the only signs of work have been removal of a few trees, Zoglmann said.

Wehr Construction of Louisville was selected to build the school, which will house classrooms for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and includes a gymnasium, media center, cafeteria and stage off the music room.

Zoglmann said the school’s entryway is likely to be one of its most impressive features. The glass-enclosed entrance will display student drawings collected as part of fundraising efforts plus commemorative bricks honoring donors.

More than $5 million has been collected, Zoglmann said, with some major pledges, including land donations, yet to come.

The new school is expected to open during fall break of 2012.

It is the first phase of construction on the property, which was purchased in 2008. The church, parish offices and meeting rooms eventually also will relocate to RobinBrooke off Rineyville Road on Elizabethtown’s north side. St. James has met along Dixie Avenue at North Miles Street for 160 years.

The exact timetable has not been set but the move is anticipated in the next five years.

“It’s according to how this goes and how the money goes,” Zoglmann said.

Re-establishing a Catholic high school also has been discussed, but serious consideration is at least eight years away, Walker said. Elizabethtown Catholic High School closed in 1969 but some St. James graduates continue their parochial school education at Bethlehem High in Bardstown.

“We don’t want to commit to that yet,” Walker said. “But once we get the church and all that built we’ll look at it. We’ll have to see if we can pay for it and if we can reasonably populate it.”

St. James School has been impacted by recent community growth and development at Fort Knox related to base realignment. It serves approximately 425 students and operates an afterschool program.

Ben Sheroan can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.