By Dan Russo | Witness Staff Writer
December 3, 2014
BELLEVUE — Construction crews recently dug the foundation and began pouring concrete for a building that will become the new home of Marquette Catholic High School in Bellevue next fall.
Completing the 7,200 square foot addition, which will include six classrooms, is the first step in a three phase plan that will enhance facilities for about 320 Catholic school students in pre-school through 12th grade. The new building, designed by Fusion Architects of Hiawatha, will be connected to the current high school building.
“We presently have four different structures that are part of the school campus,” said Father Phillip Kruse, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Bellevue and pastoral coordinator of the Bellevue Area Consolidated Catholic School and Marquette High School, which are both near the church.
“The middle school building, built in 1929, is the oldest,” he said. “It’s falling apart.”
The priest explained that the construction project, started Nov. 24, came out of a strategic plan developed several years ago by the Catholic communities of St. Joseph Parish in Bellevue, St. Donatus Parish in St. Donatus, SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Springbrook and St. Catherine Parish in St. Catherine.
“The excitement we feel within our school is really only beginning and it’s building up,” said Jim Klein, director of development for Marquette High School.
The first phase of the plan, the new high school building, is being funded thanks to donations of about $1.7 million, Klein said. After it is completed, high school students will begin classes there; while middle school students will be moved from the deteriorating building to the former high school. The former high school structure will receive some exterior improvements that aim, among other things, to make it more energy efficient, according to Father Kruse.
Phase two of the plan will tear down the old middle school building and put a parking lot in its place with room for about 70 spaces. Phase three will be the building of a parish center, which will include a lunchroom and practice gym. This center will go on a parcel of land where a portion of Fifth Street is currently located. The street now divides the elementary and middle schools from the high school. In July, Bellevue’s city council agreed to sell Fifth Street, between Franklin and Park Streets, to St. Joseph Parish for $20,000, plus legal costs.
As school let out Tuesday afternoon, students walked by the construction site on the way home. Undeterred by gray skies and a chilly 30 degree temperature, Loras Weber and his son Troy spent some time Dec. 2 measuring in preparation to pour concrete into the forms dug out for the foundation of the new building. The Webers are among several local contractors working on the project.
“I graduated (from Marquette),” said Weber. “My children graduated and I’ve got grandchildren coming up. I feel I’ve got an investment here I’d like to see last. With the gifts that everyone has in this community, I think we could make it happen and bring other people to it.”
Once all three phases are complete, all the buildings, except for the church, will be connected — a major improvement for students and staff, especially during inclement weather.
“Presently, students go outside when moving between buildings,” explained Father Kruse.
Education officials at the Archdiocese of Dubuque are supportive of the project and attended a meeting about the phase one effort with representatives of the Bellevue based schools Dec. 2.
“This is an exciting plan for the Marquette community,” said Jeff Henderson, Schools Superintendent for the archdiocese. “Addressing the important facility issues by adding high school classrooms, allowing the school board to move the middle school students into the existing high school is a great first step in their renovation planning. They give us continued hope that Catholic schools in the archdiocese are committed to continuous improvement, including facilities. It has been a team effort among parishioners, school leaders, the city of Bellevue and key supporters to make this first step a reality. We share in the pride exhibited in such a real way at Marquette Catholic Schools.”
Phase one of the facilities project is fully funded and construction has begun, but there is still much more to be done. The community is still engaged in fundraising and planning for the other two phases. Organizers have confidence people will come forward with needed resources to help complete the plans.
“We have no idea yet (how much money we will have for the other two phases),” said Father Kruse. “We feel once we get started with phase one it will be easier to raise the rest of the funds.”
Klein said a capital campaign is in the works to help secure donations for the next two phases.
“We would like to have the project done within three years,” said Klein.
Anyone interested in contributing to the project can contact Klein at 563-872-3356.