St. Mary’s Central High School welcomes students at new location
When Lauren Leidenix first walked through the doors of St. Mary’s Central High School’s (SMCHS) new building, she felt blessed.
“I remember walking in the first day, and I had goosebumps, because it was so new and so different,” says Leidenix, a senior at SMCHS. “It felt like a new start for our school and Catholic education in Bismarck.”
On Aug. 21, SMCHS welcomed more than 350 students through its doors for the first day of school. As students approached the building, they were welcomed by a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of many pieces of sacred art on the campus.
“You’re always reminded you are in the presence of something bigger than yourself,” says Gerald Vetter, president, Light of Christ Catholic Schools. “Our mission has always been derived from the fact that Christ is the center for why we learn, how we learn and what we do with what we’ve learned. That’s important, and we wanted to maintain that.”
Students marveled at the new space – an upgrade from the crowded former high school at 1025 N. 2nd Street, which was shared with middle school teachers, students and staff. Senior Mark Horner says the extra space and open concept are his favorite parts of the new facility.
“It’s more integrative. It brings people together,” says Horner.
The school has 25 classrooms that surround the impressive St. Thomas Aquinas Academic Center, with its high ceilings and modern seating. Located throughout the building are breakout areas that promote student collaboration, creativity and creative thinking.
“I think we did a good job,” says Vetter. “I think our architects were really creative. They understand that people want to be comfortable when they learn. There are areas where you can work alone, and there are others where you can be very collective.”
Vetter says the building is a bold, but necessary, step forward.
“If we had opened up school today without this high school and without our addition at St. Mary’s Grade School, we would have been 25% over capacity. When you see the type of growth we’ve gone through over the last six years – 40% growth – that obviously created a need.”
While classes are in session, construction continues on the $38 million building. The school’s Fine Arts Center will open in phases. The music classrooms will be completed this fall. The 600-seat William J. Schmidt Auditorium, which honors the legacy of a beloved band director, will open at a later date. Construction also continues on Our Lady of Victory Chapel, which is a gift from the Ken & Marilyn Keller family.