By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
When its inaugural students enter the new St. Philip & St. Augustine Catholic Academy in Pleasant Grove on its opening day Aug. 24, they will cross a threshold toward unprecedented opportunities at a facility being transformed by an $8 million overall design and construction project.
Among the completed changes, a new wing added more than 10,000 square feet to the existing St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School’s 27,633 square feet.
The construction, which began last March, also included a complete gutting and renovation of the existing school, said Marian Davis, the academy’s president and former principal of St. Augustine Catholic School—which merged with St. Philip to form the academy.
In announcing the creation of the academy last October, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell said that it will better serve the St. Augustine and St. Philip communities at the lower and middle school levels.
The former St. Augustine Catholic School campus now is home to the new Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep, which opened on Aug. 14.
Davis said that she expects an opening-day enrollment of 320 at the academy, which features emphasis on Gospel values, rigorous academics and an expanded curriculum taught by a larger staff with specialized, full-time teachers.
“There’s a lot of excitement here and a lot of excitement in the Catholic community,” Davis said. “We’ve been talking about the academy and the construction, but until people see it, they just don’t get it.”
The décor includes walls highlighted by a medium shade of purple to reflect the school colors of purple and white.
In addition to classrooms, offices and rest rooms, the school’s new wing includes a science lab; a conference room; an art room, and a music room.
Spanish, art and music are subjects that will have full-time teachers—which the St. Philip and St. Augustine schools did not have.
“Art and music educate the whole child, which is what Catholic schools are all about,” Davis said. “Music and art develop literacy and math skills.”
Among the renovations, an instructional media center occupies the space that housed the cafeteria in the 1955 building.
Davis said that The Catholic Foundation awarded the academy a $100,000 grant for construction and that the Westerman Foundation supplied a $45,000 grant for laptops and library books. The School Sisters of Notre Dame contributed $15,000, Davis said.
She praised the Perkins+Will architecture firm and the work of construction manager Win Bell and dedicated construction crews from Hill & Wilkinson who, despite late spring rains, kept the project on pace, Davis said.
Davis said that she appreciated the generosity of Father Eduardo Gonzalez and St. Philip parishioners.
“They were not able to use their church all summer,” Davis said. “All Masses have been in the gym.”
She said that families and volunteers will assist with the final move-in during a community work day on Aug. 22.
“I think it’s all very exciting,” said Academy Principal Erica Romero, the former St. Philip Principal. “I can’t wait until we start.”
Davis and Romero said that they drew inspiration and energy from each other during preparations for the academy’s opening.
“We knew what the finished product would be like,” Romero said. “We knew what it would mean to our community’s families.”
Aracelie Santiago, who has two children who will attend the academy, said that their family has enjoyed watching the construction’s progress.
“As a parent, I’m very grateful for the opportunities for our children to go to a real Catholic academy,” she said. “I’m excited for my kids and for all the kids in the neighborhood. It’s going to be a change. The kids were kind of sad last year when they knew it was going to be the last year for St. Philip School. But now, they’re very excited.”