By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor
LEE’S SUMMIT — It’s definitely a work in progress, but Phase I of St. Michael the Archangel High School is on track to be completed by late spring or early summer 2017. Teachers are to move in in July and school will begin in August. Right now it’s a construction site — several walls rising high, steel girders and posts, big work machines clumped together in various areas and of course, a lot of churned up dried mud. Oh, and a parking lot.
To celebrate and bring the status of the new high school to peoples’ attention, Father Richard Rocha, St. Michael’s president, and Jodie Maddox, principal, threw a party in the parking lot Sept. 18. Along with Father Rocha and Maddox, Dr. Dan Peters, diocesan Superintendent of Schools, Jeremy Lillig, diocesan Director of Stewardship and Development, Martha Kauffman, diocesan Construction Manager, and representatives of Hollis and Miller, Architects, chatted, introduced themselves, answered questions, and drank a lot of cold, bottled water. Temperatures hovered around 90 degrees.
Tents provided shade over chairs and tables, hot dog booths, cold drinks and displays.
About 350 people of all ages gathered in the parking lot — students from several grade and high schools who were already committed to attending St. Michael’s next year, their families, near neighbors, and some who were merely curious. As the Blackberry Winter Band played softly, the crowd munched on hot dogs and chips and cookies, wandered around near the construction site and the proposed floor plans, enlarged to poster size, standing at the north end of the lot. Students were in charge of the t-shirts and sweatshirts with the St. Michael the Archangel logo, and many of the young people were wearing them.
Our Lady of the Presentation eighth grader Bella Hughes is excitedly thinking about the progress on the high school and attending it next year. “My family all attended Archbishop O’Hara,” she said. “This is the next step toward the future.”
Classmate Claire Scheier is still deciding, but thinks St. Michael’s could be “a good choice, lots of opportunities.”
Phase I, the classrooms, chapel, library, community service center and gymnasium, will be completed first, said Martha Kaufmann. Phase II — practice and athletic fields, two theaters and lower level class and service areas — “will begin when 750 students are enrolled.”
In the meantime, athletes will play football, baseball and soccer at local high school stadiums.
One of the tents attracted a lot of attention: the Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport. Airport Manager John Ohrazda explained that a course in aviation was to be offered at St. Michael’s. Designed by the Aircraft Owner/Pilot’s Association, the school curriculum is intended to help students decide if a career in aviation is for them through courses like basic flight, how engines work, navigation and weather.
Jodie Maddox told The Key that when school opens in Aug. 2017, they are hoping and expecting 325 students to be enrolled.
Nick Leete, an eighth grader at Nativity of Mary in Independence, said he will be one of them. “I want a Catholic high school. This is a Catholic high school. I like being Catholic!”
O’Hara sophomore Alex Smitka plans to transfer to St. Michael’s when O’Hara closes next spring. Younger brother Jacob added, “My brother is going there, my mom will be working there. Guess where I will be going to high school? Yep, St. Michaels!”
The two eighth graders look forward to the high school placement test coming up on December 10, 2016 at O’Hara High School.
Father Rocha said he was pleased with the turnout and considered the party in the parking lot a great success. There are other events planned in the near future including hard hat tours for eighth-graders on October 13 and 18 and an open house on November 13. Visit smacatholic.org for more information.