By JESSICA ABLE
Record Staff Writer
ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. — The start of the 2012-2013 academic year for St. James School here has been eventful, to say the least.
First, the regional Catholic school was named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education — an honor awarded to only 269 schools nationally.
And on Monday, Oct. 15, the school officially opened the doors and convened classes in its new building on Robinbrooke Boulevard.
The new building is a project that has been in the works since 2007, and the opening of the building has been a dream for many, including Sister Michael Marie Friedman, the school’s principal.
“This has been a dream for the whole parish. Catholic education has deep roots in Elizabethtown. It’s always been our dream to expand to a new facility,” said Sister Friedman, an Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph.
One of the most exciting features of the new school for administrators, faculty, staff and students alike, she said, is the fact that all grade levels — pre-kindergarten to eighth grade — are now housed under one roof.
In the old school in downtown Elizabethtown, the students were housed in two different buildings on opposite sides of a heavily traveled road. As a result, the safety of children was a big concern, Sister Friedman said.
“Now that we are under one roof, it’s a huge time saver because we don’t have to travel back and forth. … Now the teachers and students are able to use every instructional minute the best they can,” she said.
Another benefit of the new building is its sheer expanse of space. Each classroom, on average, is about 25% larger, Sister Friedman noted.
Some of the features of the new school building are two computer labs with 30 computers each, workrooms for teachers and staff, specifically-designed sinks for smaller children and dedicated rooms for art and music classes.
Each classroom also is wired with a SMART Board allowing teachers to incorporate cutting-edge technologies into their lessons.
The new school has its own gymnasium and soccer fields and there are plans to complete tennis courts, a track and a baseball field in the near future.
“Before we were landlocked; we just didn’t have the space,” said Father Charles D. Walker, the pastor of St. James Church. “We had to rent out a gym a couple of times a week. Now we can host games.
We’ve never had home soccer or basketball games. It really boosts the morale of the kids.”
Heather Hartlage, an eighth-grade student at St. James, said she is “really excited” to be in the new building.
“Even though we are in a new space, the tradition stays the same. The space may change but nothing will change who we are,” she said.
Brady Crawford, also an eighth grader, said he believes the space will help move the school forward.
“We used to be sort of crammed,” he said. “This (new building) really gives us more space.”
The 67,676 square-foot facility sits on a site that is just shy of 50 acres.
Father Walker said it is the parish’s goal to one day build a new church sanctuary, parish offices and possibly even a Catholic high school on the property.
“We purchased this amount of land with that specific purpose in mind. It will probably be a half a dozen years in the future. Hopefully sooner than that,” Father Walker noted.
Sister Friedman said she thinks the possibilities are endless for the future of St. James School.
“When we move the church out here this will become the regional Catholic center,” she said. “I think the sky is the limit where we go from there, with God’s blessing. This community has enjoyed many blessings.”