By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
With the blare from an air horn and the might of a brick crushing bulldozer, Bishop Lynch High School moved forward with a multimillion-dollar renovation program on June 8.
As part of an $8 million project, the school will see 44,000 square feet of new facilities built on the east side of campus, including a new gymnasium, band and dance classrooms, art studios, and other support spaces. The demolished building once served as a Dominican priory, and as classrooms for the school’s visual arts program.
Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell told those in attendance that the expansion of the school’s facilities stands as a testimony of its ability to respond to the increasing demand for Catholic education in Dallas.
“Bishop Lynch High School is one of the great success stories of this community here in Dallas,” Bishop Farrell said. “This school is the largest Catholic high school in Texas. It has the largest enrollment in the state, which is amazing when you think about it. This school does not suffer from lack of enrollment; it is actually full.”
The school currently hosts 1,140 students and recently graduated 302 seniors.
Dr. Richard Toussaint, who with his wife Adelle are co-chairs of the renovation program, named the Veritas Campaign, said the school’s full enrollment also speaks volumes about the quality of education it provides.
“As Jesus turned fishermen into fishers of men, likewise what we are doing here is educating children in a system of values,” said Toussaint, whose son Rick attends Bishop Lynch as a junior. “Catholic education conveys a value system based on family, faith, character, integrity, honesty, work ethic and advancement. The children who are educated here go on to be the leadership of our next generation.”
Athletic Director Andy Zihlman said the new gymnasium will immediately ease the burden of the existing gym. Fourteen different teams use the current gymnasium, including the boys and girls basketball teams, volleyball teams, wrestling, drill team and color guard.
“It is constantly being used by somebody seven days a week,” said Zihlman. “The new gym will allow us to continue what we are currently doing and maybe expand it even more.”
Looking back on the school’s 50-year history, Bishop Lynch President Ed Leyden said school officials are excited about what the next 50 years will bring.
“We are moving forward confidently into our next 50 years,” Leyden said. “We have more building projects planned. We will certainly be faithful to our mission of Catholic education in the Diocese of Dallas. We are blessed with full enrollment and great support. This is a great time for Bishop Lynch and a great time for the parishes here in East Dallas, who have given us their support for over 50 years.”
As part of the planned demolition, the students in the visual arts program painted a two-story mural across the building to draw attention to the demolition and improvement plan. The students worked with graffiti artist Arturo Donjuan through a partnership with Dallas Contemporary’s Art Think program.
The school invited the Dallas Police Department to use the facility as a temporary training ground for SWAT team members. With classes and exams ended and students gone for the summer, police departments and SWAT Teams from Dallas, Garland and Fort Worth began using the building for training exercises.
“What’s unique about this opportunity is that normally when we train at schools, it is more of a static situation because we don’t have the opportunity to tear anything up or demolish anything,” SWAT Sgt. Thomas Sible said. “Since Bishop Lynch invited us out and said they were going to knock this building down, we put into practice a few things we have only considered in theory.”
SWAT Team Command Lt. Paul Junger said that law enforcement has partnered with public and private schools to conduct training many times, but within parameters.
“In those scenarios we can’t breach doors or windows, obviously because the school is still a functioning school so there are limitations,” Junger said. “In this case at Bishop Lynch, we had no limitations. Any kind of training we can get like this where we can use schools like this, it’s extremely critical.”
Leyden said it was an eye-opening experience for administrators, but that school officials were very happy to provide such an opportunity for law enforcement.
“We have long been partners with the Dallas Police Department, particularly their northeast substation,” Leyden said. “We have been impressed by the thoroughness and the magnitude of it all. We knew that three departments were participating, but we never expected it to be this extensive.”
That job was continued by demolition crews the next day, as hundreds of administrators, alumni, current students and their parents gathered to celebrate the beginning of the school’s first phase of campus renovations.
For alumnus Jerry Cadigan, watching the demolition was a bittersweet moment. His 1969 senior class was the school’s first to have started at Bishop Lynch as freshmen.
“When I was here, that building was the rectory, so students were never allowed to go in there,” said Cadigan, whose own children also attended Bishop Lynch. “This is just another step that further advances Bishop Lynch into the future. We are really excited about that.”