As students at St. Peter School in Lewiston return to class, they will be able to enjoy the results of large-scale renovations completed on the school and church throughout the month of August.
In order to accommodate an increasing need for more classrooms and provide greater accessibility for people with limited mobility, the school has moved its computer lab and library, added additional rooms intended for one-on-one teaching and testing, moved the DRE office and added an elevator to the building's Sixth Street entrance, which school and parish officials said will benefit the community.
"The school really has not been updated since it was built over 60 years ago. Add to that the increase in our enrollment - which has been amazing over the past four years - we really just didn't have enough space," said Maureen Ingham, principal of St. Peter's. "We didn't have enough classroom space, and we didn't have space to meet individual needs, like students that had occupational therapy."
According to Ingham, the renovations were made possible by the money the diocese's Upon This Rock capital campaign has brought in, and are necessary since the parish, like the school, has also been growing. "The parish is very supportive of the school, so through the funds of Upon This Rock, we were able to fund this much-needed renovation to our school," Ingham added, noting that when the architects first asked her what was needed, she hoped to have at least two more classrooms and three quiet work areas.
Those in charge of the project delivered by reconstructing St. Peter's basement, a large part of the first floor, and the cafeteria, creating a state-of-the art media center as well as two additional classrooms, three independent work areas and a complete renovation of the Sixth Street entrance, allowing the upgrades to help people in both the school and the parish more easily get inside of the buildings.
"In the media center, we have stations for 25 students, a SMARTBoard and all the latest technology," Ingham explained. "We have Chromebooks. We have iPads, all of which travel from classroom to classroom but are available through the media center. There's formal instruction on the computer side of the media center, as well as individual work time, especially for our middle school students."
On the other side of the media center, the library allows students to come for class and instruction, or to work on projects and check out books. The media center was built in front of the cafeteria, and the DRE has a brand-new office downstairs, close to the entrance. The bathrooms, which were outdated, have been completely remodeled, and the cafeteria, which doubles as a church hall for the parish, also saw updates.
The church will undergo more renovations in the fall. In August, Ingham said the kitchen had begun and once the school renovations are done, the ones on the church itself will be able to begin.
"The kitchen, I was just down in there today," she commented further. "I go in every day, and every day it's amazing, the changes that have occurred. They're digging trenches down there, they're doing re-piping, we're getting new appliances - not just for the servicing of the school, but because we've become such a united church community that we have a lot of functions, as a church and a school, in that cafeteria."
When asked about the goals of the parish, Msgr. David LiPuma, pastor of St. Peter's, said the diocesan capital campaign had allowed them to take a long look at their buildings and what was needed in terms of physical changes, since more money was made available to them. He cited the need for the renovations as a sign of growth and a positive step toward ensuring the parish community has a long future.
"The people here have been very supportive. They're all very excited, especially our seniors, about the elevator, because we have more and more people living longer, with more disabilities. They're very excited about that, and they're also very supportive of the school," Msgr. LiPuma commented. "It's nice to see that everybody is coming together to be supportive financially. It says something about the community here that St. Peter's is here to stay, that we're continuing to grow as a school and a parish."
According to Ingham, the renovations, as a whole, will let St. Peter's satisfy an open-door policy which allows students and families with special needs to readily come and go from its buildings.
"The elevator is going to make our building and the church accessible to everyone in the community," Ingham said. "With an aging parish as well, many people weren't able to come to our functions either in the school or down in the church hall, because of the stairs they'd have to do, and now they can. What has become an open community has now become even more open, because we'll be accessible to everyone."