With a 30 percent increase in enrollment in the past six years, officials, alumni and donors of Cair Paravel Latin School believed it was time to expand the classical Christian school’s square footage.
“I think the biggest difference has been in our retention rate,” said Stacey Hickam, director of admissions. “But more importantly and more impactfully, more students were staying to graduate.”
Wanting to play sports at a larger school was a contributing factor for many students not graduating from Cair Paravel in the past, Hickam said. However, she said, the rise and competitiveness of club sports has kept many student-athletes at the school. She said the number of classical Christian schools and students attending them in the U.S. is rising too.
“More and more people are starting schools,” Hickam said, adding that it can be a “lengthy process” from when a school opens to when it receives accreditation from the Association of Classical Christian Schools. “Their member schools and their accredited schools have been going up every year.”
An increase of 87 students — from 292 in 2011 to 379 this year — in the school’s kindergarten through 12th grades prompted the need for more classrooms, Hickam said. She said that, fortunately, the school didn’t require an addition, but rather expanded upwards into the 91-year-old school building’s attic space through a new enclosed stairwell, adding seven classrooms, two restrooms and a teacher workroom.
In the past, Hickam said, in addition to using an annex across the street from the school for some seventh- through 12-grade classrooms, teachers had to get creative in where they were teaching their students.
“We got creative,” she said. “We’ve had students in the cafeteria and in our theater. We’ve used every inch of space. I mean, the theater was a lovely space, but it wasn’t conducive to a classroom space. But it was what we had and we used it.”
Melody Congdon, Cair Paravel’s headmaster, said the renovations have gotten the school closer to its goal of having two classrooms per grade level.
“We’re just about to that point now and that’s exciting,” she said. “I’ve been here 25 years and we’re finally seeing that birth of a dream come true.”
Hickam said donors and alumni stepped up to raise the estimated $2 million needed for the renovations in about a year and a half without an organized capital campaign.
“We didn’t have to go through the construction costs of creating a whole new building,” she said, adding earlier estimates for an addition to the school were $5 million to $7 million. “It might as well have been $50 to $70 million. It was so far out of our reach.”
KBS Constructors Inc., of Topeka, is the project’s contractor, while Topeka-based Architect One designed the estimated 7,500 square feet of space on the building’s second floor, Hickam said. She said renovations also include enhancing security for the entrance to the building, which opened in 1926 as Clay Street Elementary.
Hickam said an open house for families, donors, alumni and community members will likely be held in the next few weeks.
Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or follow her on Twitter @AngelaDeines.