When the O’Fallon Historic Landmarks Commission designated St. Clare Catholic School as one of the city’s historic structures in January, its president Steve Brown said the school was being recognized for the significant contributions it has made in the community and because the original sections of the existing structure make it the oldest building in the city still being used as a school.
Brown also praised school leaders for their decision when planning renovations completed in April 2013 to respect the building’s original builders by keeping its traditional look.
Those renovations not only preserved an historic structure, they transformed the Third Street building and the site upon which it sits into one of the most visually-pleasing school settings in the city. And the O’Fallon Chamber of Commerce is taking note of that by presenting to St. Clare one of its 2014 Beautification Awards.
School leaders said the renovations to the 85-year-old structure were as much a gift to the community as they were a commitment to the future of Catholic education in O’Fallon.
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“We wanted to make a big contribution to the whole community, first of all by committing to staying downtown and, then, by improving the looks of the facilities. So we feel it is a gift back to the community,” said Father James Deiters, pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, who is co-superintendent of the school with Monsignor William Hitpas of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in O’Fallon.
He added, “I want to give kudos to a lot of the long-time O’Fallon parishioners because we had set aside some land at our new church for a possible new school some day ... but I went back to them and said what do you think about recommitting to the old school? It was unanimous.
They said let’s commit to ... staying there because the school is worth it.
“We wanted to be good stewards,” Deiters then said. “The building is a good, solid structure so why not use it.
“Our parish vision is stewardship — of this building, of this land, of what our ancestors passed on to us,” he explained. “In a world where everything has to be new, I think part of stewardship is treasuring good, solid buildings that are already there and building upon them.”
The $4.9 million project added five classrooms, a science lab, resource room, conference room, new restrooms and two new offices. It also provided for an expanded library and new computer lab. The project included renovations of three classrooms, two offices and a workroom.
Also, one of the renovated classrooms became a dedicated art room.
The renovation allowed kindergarten students to be moved into the building and for the music programs to be moved from temporary classroom facilities that were then removed from the campus.
Additionally, the brick exterior of the building, constructed in 1929 and added onto in 1952, was tuck-pointed and cleaned. The metal siding on Goelz Hall, the gym, which was built in 1969 and remodeled in 2006, was replaced with an Exterior Finish Insulation System. And the entire building received a fire sprinkler system.
The project included a new traffic lane along Third Street that allows efficient and safe drop off and pick up of students away from the city street.
Parking and playground spaces that were lost in front of the school because of the construction have been replaced through the purchase of lots along Second St. And landscaping was upgraded throughout the campus.
“These improvements will keep the school a vibrant place where our children can learn about God and excel academically. More than 140 years of Catholic education have taken place at St. Clare School. What a remarkable legacy we are continuing,” Deiters said at its dedication last April.
“We are so proud of our new addition and the renovations made to the existing building,” added Principal Milissa Faust while noting the building is now capable of housing up to 500 students. “St. Clare has always offered an outstanding, quality Catholic education, but with the completion of this project ... we can preserve and enhance the wonderful education we provide to our children.”