The day before Thanksgiving break, Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School Principal Joy Bearley unveiled an early Christmas gift for the students in grades 5-8 at the school’s Cathedral Campus.
She gave them a tour of their brand-new classrooms, replete with the latest state-of-the art technology, the result of several years of planning and fundraising for the future of Catholic education in downtown Harrisburg.
“When they saw their new classrooms, they were hollering and celebrating and carrying on with excitement. They said they couldn’t wait to return to school after break,” Bearley said. “They are so excited about their school, and I am extremely grateful to see their gratitude. They realize they have a tremendous gift here.”
The gift is an expanded and refurbished school, located in what is now known as the Cathedral Education Center. The center, which was blessed by Bishop Ronald Gainer during a school-wide celebration on December 8, combines the existing Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School building with the adjacent former Shanahan Building on North Street.
Phase I and II of the education center provides new classrooms for grades PreK and 5-8, as well as new music, art and computer rooms, a STEM lab and a new dining facility. Phase III, which commences in January, will be the renovation of the existing 1951 school building. When completed, the new center will bring together the entire Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School community, moving grades K-4 currently at the Holy Family Campus to the renovated building at the Cathedral Campus.
“This is such a huge gift for us,” said Bearley who was a teacher at the school before stepping into the position of principal this year.
“We will now have a STEM lab, which we’ve never had before, and that’s a huge plus for us. When Phase 3 is finished, we’ll also have a separate computer lab. There’s a lot of new technology, like charging carts and Smartboards, enhanced security and an elevator. Everyone in grades 5-8 has access to a Chromebook, and now we have much more reliable wifi service in their classrooms.”
“This endeavor brings our students opportunity. In addition to what we have offered for many years, we now have new resources. This is giving our kids opportunities that they wouldn’t have had before,” she said. “It’s awesome to see the students so excited about school.”
Ever since ground was broken for the project in May of 2021, students have been eagerly following the construction process, watching as crews poured cement, dug a hole for the elevator, and connected the Shanahan Building to the 1951 school building. Their names are permanently a physical part of the school, signed onto the support beam that connects the buildings, effectively connecting the past to the future.
“This has been such a wonderful experience for our school,” Bearley said. “To see all of the groups working together and having the support of so many people – from Father (Joshua) Brommer, our pastor, and the parishioners, to the Diocese and volunteers who helped us move and clean, to those who were involved in the construction and permit process – it has been a blessing to witness.”
“This required so many people to work together for the good of our school, our parish and our community. As a center-city school, it’s so inspiring to have the support that we do with this. We are accomplishing good things here,” she said.
Learn more about Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School at www.hbgcathelem.org.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness