Final fundraising push is on for new K-8 building for Catholic Schools

The next five months will be crunch time for supporters of Billings Catholic Schools as they launch a final fundraising push for a new school building. Administrators hope to break ground in March on an 87,000-square-foot school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, consolidating classes that are now spread over three locations. “It would cost almost as much to renovate what we currently have than to build a new building,” said Janyce Haider, president of the Billings Catholic Schools Foundation. The school will be built on land the organziation owns at Colton Boulevard and Woody Drive. The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings purchased the 27-acre plot for $1 in 1959, according to Haider. It’s home to a practice sports field and St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, which have small footprints on the plot. A main goal of the new building is to put grades K-8 under one roof. St. Francis Primary, Intermediate and Upper Schools present a less efficient system as enrollment increases. The newest of the three buildings opened in 1958, said Billings Catholic Schools President Shaun Harrington. For staff and faculty, Harrington said that the building will alleviate some facility needs. Those include crowded classrooms and space for gym and music classes. St. Francis Upper, for example, has one set of bathrooms. “They’re doing awesome stuff,” Harrington said, “they’re just jammed into the buildings.” The project cost is estimated at $18 million, which includes furnishings and parking space. Haider said $11 million has been pledged toward the project, but the school has less than a quarter of that in hand so far. “We need to get $9 million of cash in the bank before we break ground,” Haider said. A fundraising campaign is ongoing. Haider said that they have a donor base of around 10,000. That includes support from school system employees, 78 percent of whom have donated. The Billings City Council approved plans for the project on Monday, and administrators hope to have the new building up and running for the 2017 school year.

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