For the first time since its founding nearly 30 years ago, St. Marguerite Catholic School will finally have a home all its own.
Construction on the St. Marguerite Catholic School and John J. Sullivan Education Center began nearly two years ago, and is expected to be complete in time for the first day of school on Aug. 20. The new facility represents a dream Principal Marcella Edwards-Burden said seemed very far off when the groundbreaking was held in September 2010.
The school’s 3,000-square-foot first phase — which included the construction of the main offices, an extended daycare room and classrooms for kindergartners through second-graders — was completed before the beginning of the last school year. Although the project was initially planned for two phases totaling 12,000 square feet, at the groundbreaking Edwards-Burden said the school only had enough money to finish the first phase.
However, through an undisclosed donation from philanthropist L.S. “Sam” Skaggs, the second and final phase was able to be constructed. It will now be ready to house the school’s entire student body. Skaggs, whose family founded grocery chain American Stores Company, has helped to fund several Catholic school projects in Utah, including the Skaggs Catholic Center where Juan Diego High School is located.
“When we finished phase one, we thought that was it for at least 10 years,” Edwards-Burden said. “We used up what we had to build it. Then our guardian angel popped in. Mr. Skaggs is an extremely generous man. We would not have been able to this without him.”
The second phase of the project has added six more classrooms, a library, a science lab, a faculty lounge, a second set of bathrooms, an office and other miscellaneous storage and janitorial closets. The school now has a total of 11 classrooms, not including the extended daycare room that can be divided into two classrooms if needed.
“We’re just now putting the finishing touches on the building,” Edwards-Burden said. “We enlarged the building by two-thirds when we built phase two.”
The completed building will be dedicated on Oct. 30 by The Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Now that the building is complete, Edwards-Burden said the next goal is to fill up the school, which accepts students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Last year, about 150 students attended the school and its first class of eighth-graders graduated. This year, she expects to have about 160 attending.
“To fill it we would need between 180 and 185 students,” she said. “We’d love to fill it within the next couple of years.”
Because of the new library and science lab, Edwards-Burden said students will be able to have experiences they couldn’t have before.
“The science lab will be state of the art,” she said. “We can do science experiments we’ve never been able to do because the room will be fully functional.” The lab, which is mainly for use by older students, has 16 desks that two students each can sit at. The classroom is designed to have a main desk for a teacher to use to demonstrate science experiments, and the student desks will circle around it in a half-moon shape. The lab also has an eye wash station, extra large fire extinguisher and lockable storage closet for chemicals.
“Students will be able to plug in their laptops or microscopes and follow along with what the teacher is doing,” Edwards-Burden said. “The room will have a cement floor and resin, chemical-resistant topped desks.”
Edwards-Burden said many students are excited about having a science lab, and some of the older students have already volunteered to paint a periodic table of the elements on one of the classroom’s walls.
“If it gets them excited about the school, then I’m excited,” she said.
Classes above the fourth-grade level will all have interactive whiteboards. There’s also a new foreign language classroom, which is a bonus, according to Edwards-Burden, because in the past students didn’t have a specific classroom they could go to for their French lessons, which is the only language taught at St. Marguerite because it’s the only language the school has been accredited to teach.
“Students receive French lessons from kindergarten on. The honors high school students [from Tooele High School] teach kindergarten through second grade, and I teach French to the older kids. It’ll be nice to have a classroom [for languages]. In the past we had to use someone’s classroom or the gym.”
The library, which is encased by glass windows on two sides, will eventually hold up to 20,000 books, 20 student computers and an audio table where students can put on headphones and plug them into the table to listen to audio books.
“We have a volunteer librarian who is a member of the parish and a parent who has a library science degree who will help me choose the books to fill the shelves,” Edwards-Burden said. “Right now we only have about 20 boxes of books.”
Small figurines of Jesus and Mary, which came from the original St. Marguerite parish on Utah Avenue, will be installed somewhere outside the library’s entrance. The statues have been in storage for the past 25 years, ever since the original preschool moved to the parish that is now on Seventh Street.
“They are a piece of the original parish,” she said. “We knew we had to bring them here. They are part of our heritage.”
The library also has some glass display cases where other original artifacts from the first parish will be housed.
The new faculty lounge will create a space for teachers to have a cup of coffee or make a quick copy — something they didn’t have the luxury of doing in the past because there wasn’t any space.
“We’ll have a place for meetings or for our prayer every morning,” Edwards-Burden said. “The faculty lounge area is huge for us [teachers and administrators].”
The playground behind the school is also getting some minor changes to increase safety. This includes a new concrete curb around the play area, leveling of the ground in the play area, a new fence, and the installation of a rubber mulch ground covering.
“This building lets our students know they are special,” Edwards-Burden said. “It’s a beautiful building that’s very welcoming.”