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Students from Saint Andrew School take part in groundbreaking ceremonies for a new school addition in May in Murphysboro.

As students from Saint Andrew School in Murphysboro look toward the beginning of classes this fall, not only are they anticipating fresh pencils, new backpacks and renewed friendships, but they also will be looking forward to new spaces to learn.

Construction on the first of four phases of renovations and growth for the Catholic School is well underway and while classrooms won’t quite be ready for the fall semester, students, faculty and staff alike are looking forward to new spaces, following a ground breaking ceremony held in May.

The expansion at Saint Andrew is necessary, says school Principal Jenny Martin.

“One of the reasons for the new facilities is just our growth,” she explains. “Our enrollment has grown 30 percent in three years.”

Now that student numbers in kindergarten through eighth grade are approaching 170, and with some modular mobile classrooms nearing the end of their usefulness, new construction is necessary.

“We began using modular buildings for classrooms 20 years ago,” Martin explains. “The life expectancy of those buildings is 20 years, so we have to put money into those buildings, get new ones or use the money for a more permanent structure.”

She says the school’s board made the decision to build new permanent facilities and has been fundraising for some time. Martin explains that the new addition is funded by donations from members of the community and “any grants we can get a hold of,” as well as proceeds from the school’s annual Mega-raffle held each spring.

Construction crews are completing work on the roof of the new addition, which will include new office and classroom space, a conference room, teacher work space and an annex which will connect the school to Saint Andrew Catholic Church. Martin says construction will not be complete by the first day of class, so students will have to wait a little longer to utilize the new space. She says a move into the new offices will likely happen around Christmas, with the transition into classrooms coming later.

“Unfortunately, we cannot put up buildings in just three months,” she says.

Additional expansion plans include removal of the modular buildings by the end of the academic year; future construction of a new activity center to include a gym with stage, concession space and extracurricular space and then eventually renovation of Saint Andrew’s existing gym. Martin says plans are to begin construction of the new gym for the 2019-20 school year, followed by renovations to the existing facility. She says the current gym will be converted into a multipurpose room and two classrooms, but exact plans may change depending on enrollment and other needs.

She says the expansion of the school facilities is designed to assist the school follow its mission of creating disciples that can achieve academic success and to allow for space for larger number of students. Martin says the school draws students from communities throughout the region, including Ava, Carbondale, Cobden, Du Quoin, Elkville and Murphysboro.

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