$9.5 Million High School in Conway Now Open – Arkansas Catholic

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Walls of windows at the new $9.5 million, 39,000 square foot St. Joseph High School in Conway allow natural light to flood the building's classrooms.

St. Joseph plans to add a new K-6 elementary school building to the church campus next

Posted: September 17, 2022

Aprille Hanson Spivey

The new $9.5 million, 39,000 square foot St. Joseph High School in Conway, seen here on the second night of their two-night open house Sept. 8, opened this school year.

St. Joseph parishioners and alumni flocked to the new St. Joseph High School in Conway during the two-night open house Sept. 7-8, as teachers and staff smiled, ready to show off their new space.

As Rosemary Ballard, former volunteer drama teacher and St. Joseph parishioner, walked out of the new black box theater, she spotted Joanna Nabholz, principal architect at H+N Architects who designed the new building.

“Do you have something to do with it?” Ballard asked.

“A little, Nabholz replied, smiling.

“The main hope we have is to provide a place where we can help the parents of our students to grow in holiness and to discover how God calls them in life and to help them in their role of transmitting the faith while providing an education for the service of the world,” Fr. Robbins said.

This moment was long in coming. Held back for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school launched the public phase of its $10.9 million fundraising campaign in the spring of 2021 to replace the 70-year-old building. Bishop Anthony B. Taylor celebrated the groundbreaking on June 30, 2021, and the staff began moving on July 11 of this year.

It cost $9.5 million for the building and site, with about $1.2 million to be raised, said high school principal Matt Tucker.

“It’s amazing. The previous high school served a purpose very, very well. … In the old high school, everything had to be modernized, technologically,” Tucker said, adding that the new building was modern. “When I say everything is cleaner, it sounds like a building that was done the right way. It’s just amazing. And so, the students, I think they’re still trying to figure out how to use it.” .

The new 39,000 square foot building is located to the left of the former 21,000 square foot high school, built in 1951. Campaign funds were used to remove asbestos and demolish the old building in June. In the future, a new kindergarten-sixth grade school will be built, as part of a master plan to move primary school students across the street to the church grounds.

Bishop Taylor celebrated a Mass at the school and blessed the building on August 31. Father Tony Robbins, who has pastored St. Joseph for six years, said investing in the school is an “expression of faith.”

“The main hope we have is to provide a place where we can help the parents of our students to grow in holiness and to discover how God calls them in life and to help them in their role of transmitting the faith while providing an education for the service of the world,” Fr. Robbins said. “So spiritually, we hope to help students discover themselves as God intended them, with their God-given purpose in life, and to have a good facility that makes it conducive for our current students, but also for well-advanced students in the future.”

The two-story high school is filled with large windows, making the parish completely visible from the entrance and in most of the 11 classrooms. The school has a student union with a digital learning space called Cyber ​​Cafe and eight large classrooms for music, industrial technology, computer and science labs, with easy-to-move furniture . The black box theater – a square room with black walls – will be versatile for school and community events, accommodating 75 people for a production and up to 200 with seats only. A store will soon be open year-round to sell school merchandise. All classes, with the exception of the first period study hall, are in school and no longer overflow into the parish Spiritan Center.

“A student just has to leave the building now to go to the gym because A is a student-athlete for basketball practice or B is because he has to go to the gym for a health and physical education classes, all of which is out of the gym,” Tucker said. “Whereas before a student had to go to the gymnasium for science, a student might have to go to the gymnasium for family consumer science, that is simply no longer the case.”

Architect Nabholz, a parishioner, and Jake Nabholz of Nabholz Construction led the project.

“It was a great, smooth process,” Joanna Nabholz said. “It was good to work with all the teachers who taught me in high school. It was a good collaboration, I think, between all of us – the school community, the parish members who helped design and the construction of the building.

Art teacher Penny Bassham, who taught for 30 years at St. Joseph, said she loves the storage spaces in her room and the large industrial sinks cut cleaning time in half.

“I actually have empty spaces that aren’t being filled,” Bassham said, alluding to his once cramped space. But the best blessing is that her former student, Joanna, designed her, calling her one of her “best students.”

Although modern, the design features paid homage to the legacy of education at St. Joseph, which began in 1879.

“We really have to do interesting things in the student union. We made wood signs with the alma mater inscribed, the logo inscribed,” Nabholz said.

Repurposed wood from the school gymnasium in 1959, later used as a church hall, was used for a bench in the student union. A tree dating to at least the 1980s on campus is now part of the Cyber ​​Cafe’s carpentry.

“Everything,” Nabholz said of what the school’s design meant. “I don’t know how to put it into words, it’s been a really good process to be a part of it.”

Home to 194 students in grades seven through ten this year, Tucker said he plans to collect data on the new building’s impact on future enrollment.

“I’ll be tracking enrollment over this period between now and when we start launching the next phase of the K-6 building,” likely even several years later, Tucker said. “We need to make this building profitable.”

Information about the school’s fundraising campaign can be obtained by contacting the school’s business manager, Cathy White, at (501) 327-5528 or .


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