A high school will be getting a major new addition to the building it has called home for decades.
St. Catharine Academy on Williamsbridge Road, off Pelham Parkway, held a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday, June 12 for a brand new entrance for it’s building that should enhance accessibility and safety.
Construction is set to begin this summer on the new main entrance and lobby, said Sr. Patricia Wolf, SCA president.
Currently, the girl high school’s primary point of entry is on Williamsbridge Road which isn’t handicap accessible, said Wolf, adding that currently people in wheelchairs have to be carried in and out of the school, which is heart-breaking to see, she said.
The project makes the school accessible for those in wheelchairs, and does much more.
“In changing the entryway, what we really are doing is creating a whole new lobby, installing an elevator, and improving the physical security of the building,” said Wolf. “We decided to renovate existing space in the school, build it out and reinvent it.”
Situating the entranceway on Laconia Avenue was necessary because expanding it on the Williamsbridge Road side was not feasible, said the school president.
Parish Property Management is the builder and Ernest Harris is the architect on the planned addition.
The entrance on Williamsbridge Road had been built when most students walked to school, but now more students arrive by car or the subway, making the Laconia Avenue the widely used entrance, said Bill O’Connor, Parish Property Management president.
The building addition is part of a $2.5 million capital improvement campaign that began in 2014 that reached its goal, said Wolf.
The capital fundraising included money for cutting-edge technology like a new robotics lab that was recently completed at the school, said its president, adding that it took some time to get the construction project underway.
The new entrance and lobby will feature 20 foot-high ceilings with a skylight in the shape of a cross, an elevator linking the two wings of the buildings, a reception area that is separate from the rest of the school and the elimination of all stairs when entering the building, she said.
Inside the lobby there will be a wheelchair ramp for accessibility, said Wolf.
The project is big undertaking for St. Catharine High School because all capital improvements since the building opened in 1953 have occurred inside, with no changes to its exterior, said Wolf.
O’Connor said he was delighted to see a Catholic secondary school in the borough expanding, taking it as a sign that Catholic education was here to stay in the borough.
“I grew up in the Bronx and we have all been a little bit saddened to see that many of the Catholic schools that we grew up in and were educated in are closed,” said O’Connor. “It is truly an honor, a delight and a privilege to see one of these schools thriving and growing.”
The entrance and reception area will be both welcoming and secure, added O’Connor, with security a top priority at every school.