St. Patrick School in Carlisle is looking to the future with a $3.5 million addition planned to give students hands-on experience in some of the fastest growing career fields.
The elementary school hopes to break ground this spring on an 11,000-square-foot STEAM wing. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
St. Patrick School, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, serves students from 3-year-old preK to eighth grade. Current enrollment is just under 400 students.
“Though the school has stayed current on the most up-to-date strategies and practices of curriculum and instruction, we need to continue to prepare our students for future jobs and careers,” said Principal Antoinette Oliverio.
The new STEAM wing will give students a unique setting and opportunity to explore. Nationally, jobs in STEM are projected to grow two times faster than other occupations, with many left unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. Oliverio hopes introducing students to these concepts at a young age will pique their interest and open opportunities for future learning.
The expansion will include a middle school STEM room, elementary STEM room, flexible classroom, separate art and music rooms, offices, storage and restrooms.
While the STEM part of the wing will be a marked improvement from what exists in the school now, the art and music programs will get dedicated space that currently doesn’t exist. Those programs have to share spaces, search out spaces or use temporary modular classrooms, which will be gone when the wing is completed.
Father Don Bender, pastor of St. Patrick Parish, said the future wing and its opportunity for varied and interconnected lessons are part of a much bigger picture.
“It is such a blessing to see our students grow not just in their faith but as a better human being and someone that is not just connected to our parish but to the communities around us and to the world,” Father Bender said. “It helps strengthen our goal to create a spiritual, academic and humanistic aspect to all the things we do at the school.”
Since becoming principal in 2017 after 12 years at the school as a middle school English teacher, Oliverio knew she wanted to expand student opportunities in STEAM.
“As a ‘Catholic Leader in Me’ school, we encourage our students to be the best version of themselves. We teach them habits that allow them to be a successful leader who is well-rounded in the areas of academics, athletics, extra-curricular activities and service,” Oliverio said.
“Combining a STEAM curriculum with our strong faith-based learning environment will allow our students to become the most productive citizens possible,” she said. “A graduate of St. Patrick School will be able to meet the challenges of our future and give back to our community.”
The project took shape after an anonymous donor contributed $500,000 for the vision. Another donor has pledged $2 million over a two-year period. St. Patrick Parish has pledged about $500,000 toward the project.
The school is working on fundraising for the remaining $500,000, seeking individual and corporate donors as well as holding fundraisers throughout the year.
The school would also like to hire a specialist on STEAM instruction who could help all the teachers incorporate the space and equipment into their lessons.
“Our students will be able to take their learning experience from St. Patrick School today and make an incredible difference in the world tomorrow,” Oliverio said. “I am thrilled and honored to be a part of this new movement at St. Patrick School.”
The parish is working to finalize architectural drawings to submit to the Diocese of Harrisburg by the end of this month and anticipates approval by February. If that happens, construction could begin as early as March, according to Father Bender.
The parish is also working with South Middletown Township on land development approval, which Father Bender said they hope will lead to an occupancy permit to open by January 2024.
“This wing will be an incredible blessing to our students to help them see how Christ works in their lives in practical ways through the use of the STEM rooms to the new music and art rooms,” Father Bender said “God truly works in mysterious ways not just in our lives but in creation as well.”
(Lisa Maddux is a freelance reporter for The Witness. Renderings courtesy of St. Patrick School.)
By Lisa Maddux, Special to The Witness