When students return to classes at Marist High School next August, they’ll have a lot more space to spread out. And to learn about space at the same time.
Marist, 4200 W. 115th St., is renovating the former monastery on its campus into a 30,000-square-foot science wing that will house 10 labs and an astronomy dome.
“I like to think we pay attention to where the world is going,” said Marist principal Larry Tucker. “And where the education world has been going for some time is in the direction of hands-on education. This will allow for that.”
So far, the school has raised about $10.5 million of the $13.5 million expected cost, said Marist Brother Hank Hammer, the school’s president. Ground was broken for the project in May. All of the funding has come through donations, Tucker noted, not any increase in tuition.
The labs will be equipped for the classes Marist offers now — not just biology, chemistry and physics, but anatomy and physiology and forensic science. The school hopes to get medical mannequins for the anatomy lab, similar to mannequins used in college health science programs, so students can apply what they are learning, whether it’s measuring blood pressure or evaluating a patient for shock.
The forensic science room will have a small crime-scene lab, Tucker said.
With the new dome, he said, the school will bring back its astronomy class, which had been discontinued because there was no real way for students to study the stars.
“It was more just reading about it instead of doing it,” Tucker said. “This will give them a way to do it.”
He said the dome will be similar to, although much smaller than, the dome used for sky shows at Adler Planetarium. The room it occupies will have seats for 30 students.
It also won’t just be for astronomy. There are materials available that use the dome to give students an interior view of human organs, and others that help them understand the topography for the Battle of Gettysburg.
“We can use this for a lot of things,” Tucker said.
Local elementary schools are already asking about bringing students for field trips, and there has been discussion about partnering with institutions of higher learning who might use it in the evening and about hosting community events.
The new wing will expand the school’s instructional space by about 20 percent, Hammer said. It’s designed to meet the needs of the 1,630 students the school has now, although the added space would make it easier to make room for more.
As it is, the school is crowded, but not quite at its top capacity of between 1,700 and 1,800 students.
“It’s more that the labs we have were all designed 55 years ago,” Hammer said, and sometimes classes must move around the building to accommodate science teachers who need to use them.
Hammer, who has ministered at Marist for 38 of the past 45 years, said that when he first lived in the former monastery on Marist’s campus, there were 42 brothers there. Before it closed, three brothers lived there.
Having all of that mostly vacant space on the campus of a school that needed more facilities made the decision self-evident, Hammer said.
“From the time I first came here, we always had three communities of brothers in this area, so it was very easy for the other two communities to absorb them,” Hammer said.
Since the monastery was not being used for classes before, the construction has not caused any disruption to educational programming, he said.
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