Monday, October 5, 2009

The $6.5 million project will add 16,000 square feet to the Totino-Grace High School in Fridley

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Totino-Grace High School in Fridley is embarking on the largest construction and renovation project in its 44-year history.

The $6.5 million plan includes construction of a wrestling/multipurpose room, a choir and instrumental music facility, an art department and a fitness center. The auditorium also is slated for renovation.

All together, the project will add 16,000 square feet of new space to the existing 180,000 square feet and include renovation of 25,000 square feet of existing space at the private Catholic school.

Totino-Grace's president, Brother Milton Barker, said the project is meant to address new areas of interest. "These are programs that have grown significantly over the past 10 years," he said. "They're not being built because of an increase in student enrollment, but because of an increase in the number of students participating in those particular departments."

Barker said strength and conditioning programs and wrestling have become more popular. So have the school's show choir and marching percussion group. The auditorium renovation includes new sound and lighting systems, new seats, new storage space that will free up more space for the stage, and a new heating and ventilation system.

Groundbreaking on the project was last week, and it is scheduled for completion by the time school starts next September. Barker said construction workers will concentrate on building the new space during the school year, then move on to the renovations of the existing facilities during the summer months.

Barker said the school is counting on donations to cover $5 million of the costs and it plans to borrow the remaining $1.5 million. Through a fund-raising campaign launched in September 2008, it already has raised $4.83 million. "It is remarkable that in a year and a week we were able to raise as much as we did," Barker said.

He said there had been numerous renovation projects over the course of the school's history, but that this is by far the largest.

"We didn't want this project to be paid for with tuition dollars, because that would have meant a significant increase," he said. Annual tuition at the school is $11,400. Totino-Grace has 920 students, which represents a dip from the 950 to 1,000 it usually averages. Star Tribune


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