During renovations, students attend St. Peter’s at Southwest High School

St. Peter’s sixth grader Bennie LaBella organizes his locker on Aug. 14. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — St. Peter’s School opened in 1929 in an English Gothic styled building designed as church, a seven-classroom school and convent. The current church was built in 1943.

In 1954, the south building was constructed and connected to the school, adding more classrooms. In 1961, a three-story addition was built, with 10 classrooms, a cafeteria and a principal’s office; giving St. Peter’s a 600-student capacity. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, thanks to the “Anchor Campaign,” several new classrooms, a large gym with seating and a stage, and needed office space were built.

By 2016, the older sections of the school needed repair and the thrust of new technologies and educational initiatives necessitated some changes in design. After getting bids and estimates, with the future in mind, the parish and school sought approval from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to launch a 3-year, $6.2 million capital campaign. Father Steve Cook, pastor, announced that the parish received diocesan approval in the July 21, 2016 parish bulletin. The campaign “will include renovation of the north school building, debt repayment for the “Safe to School” (student drop-off) project and continued exploration of a gathering space (narthex) between the church and school,” he wrote.

But where would classes be held during renovation? School administrators sought a building where the first semester of the 2017-18 school year could be held. It would be best if the parent commute wasn’t too long, there was enough room for Kindergarten through eighth grade students, and if it was an actual school building, with classrooms, gym, library and cafeteria that would be great!

The Southwest High School building at 65th and Wornall Road, about 5 minutes west of St. Peter’s, was available, the cost was affordable and it fit the bill: close by, large enough to accommodate the students, a library, technology lab, cafeteria and auditorium. The papers were signed and cleanup work started.

Work began on the north building (facing Meyer Blvd.) immediately following the end of the 2016-17 school year. Everything that would be moved to the new school site was stored until now.

Principal Mary Omecene, vice-principal Angie Meyer and the teachers and staff wanted the students to be excited about school at the new site. The Fall semester was dubbed “Semester Abroad,” and on Aug. 14, students found their homerooms and explored the two floors St. Peter’s is using. As they entered the building, they were issued “passports,” which were to be handed to the teacher in each of their classrooms to be stamped. Supplies were organized between homerooms and lockers, and kids and parents looking for room 222 or room 102 (for example,) could be seen up and down the halls.

Sixth grader Bennie LaBella and his mother, Anne, found his homeroom, met his homeroom teacher, organized his supplies between the homeroom and his locker, got his passport stamped and started looking for his other classrooms, seeing and greeting friends and classmates along the way. Both Bennie and his mom seemed happy and curious about the new school site, even though it is temporary, and laughed a lot as they commented on lockers, classrooms, the length of the halls and climbing the stairs.

When his passport was filled with stamps, Bennie headed to the cafeteria for ice cream.

The first day of school was Aug. 16. Students, faculty and staff expect to return to St. Peter’s newly renovated building in January 2018. They can keep apprised of the progress on the parish website.

In the meantime, they’ll have a semester abroad without leaving home.


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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph