By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
UPPER PROVIDENCE – The roof and windows are in place and the exterior brickwork is nearly complete on the new Pope John Paul II High School.
Scheduled to open in September 2010 after the consolidation of Pope Pius X High School in Pottstown and Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic High School in Norristown, the $65 million state-of-the-art archdiocesan secondary school in central Montgomery County is being built on an 84-acre tract of land in Upper Providence Township, off the Royersford exit of Route 422.
Overseeing the development of the new school is its first president, Father Alan J. Okon, currently the president of St. Pius X and Kennedy-Kenrick.
“Now that people see bricks and mortar, that there is a physical building – it becomes real,” he said.
Construction is progressing on schedule, Father Okon added.
Permanent electrical power was installed in late August. “That’s a major milestone,” he said. “Up until then, we were working off temporary power. We are energized.”
By mid-September, the brickwork is scheduled to be completed on the exterior of the building and the boilers will be fired for the first time.
As of July 1, Kennedy-Kenrick and St. Pius X were financially merged. Incoming freshmen of both schools are wearing the new school uniform this year to prepare for the merger and to help them cut costs for subsequent years at the new school.
The school colors, blue and gold, reflect those of the two schools.
Throughout the summer, Father Okon and other officials of Kennedy-Kenrick and St. Pius X met with Mary Rochford, the archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools, and other administrators of the Office of Catholic Education to develop the new school’s academic programs and other aspects of its future day-to-day schedule.
In early September, Father Okon is hosting a barbecue on the grounds of the new school for administrators, faculty and staff of Kennedy-Kenrick and St. Pius X. Throughout this school year, freshmen and sophomores of the consolidated schools will participate in combined retreat days.
This past April 2 – the fourth anniversary of the death Pope John Paul II – Cardinal Justin Rigali blessed a 24-foot high cross before a crane lifted it and workers secured it to two steel beams on the school building, high above an area reserved for the 70-seat school chapel.
The placement of the cross marked the completion of the steel framing of the new school.
As of August, plumbing and ducts for the sprinkler, heating and air-conditioning systems had been installed throughout the entire building. Wiring for the fire alarms, security systems, computer networks and telephone lines have been installed in half the building. Work on the other half is scheduled to be completed in the near future.
In some areas of the school, grids for the drop ceiling have been installed, as have light fixtures and tiling.
Grass continues to grow on the six sports fields. Fences have been placed around the perimeter of the football and softball fields. Also in place are the field goals of the football field and the base of the all-weather track.
At 209,000 square feet, the high school, located at the intersection of Rittenhouse and Township Line roads, will have a capacity for 1,200 students with the potential for more.
“We continue to make steady progress as we move forward,” Father Okon said. “The larger the task at hand, the greater the need we have for God’s grace.”
“We are dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of Pope John Paul II himself for guidance as we prepare for this new school,” Father Okon said.
Parent information meetings are planned for mid-November, prior to eighth-grade visitation day.
For more information about Pope John Paul II High School, including registration guidelines, call (610) 275-8862 or visit the web site www.pjphs.org.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or email@example.com.