SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – Saint John’s High School is constructing a new academic and fine arts building set to open in September 2015. The 48,000 square-foot, three-story facility will house the Performing/Visual Arts, World Languages, and a portion of the Social Studies departments.
Highlights of the new building include a 350-seat Performing Arts Center, 14 classrooms, music practice spaces, a two-story band room, art studios, and cutting edge World Language and Graphic Arts computer lab. The design of the new building, to be named Founders Hall, reflects the brick exteriors of the adjacent Ryken Center and main building Conal Hall.
Founders Hall will honor Saint John’s roots on Temple Street in Worcester. The name recognizes the four Xaverian Brothers who arrived in Worcester in 1894 to staff the boys division of the Saint John’s grammar school led by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at that time. Founders Hall also honors the thousands of young men who attended the Temple Street campus before Saint John’s relocated to Main Street in Shrewsbury in 1961.
The Saint John’s campus houses three academic buildings on 160 acres of land. The original building, completed in 1961 and recently named Conal Hall (in honor of Bro. J. Conal Owens, C.F.X.), which houses 38 classrooms and administrative offices, recently underwent $12 million of renovations during the “Transforming Lives” Campaign. The newest building, Ryken Center (built in 1998 and named after the founder of the Congregation of Saint Francis Xavier), has a beautiful 11,000 sq. ft. library, 5 classrooms, three state-of-the art science laboratories, a 140-seat lecture hall, and a small Black Box theatre that is dramatically too small given the growth of the program, that seats 75-100 people. The third building, Flavian Hall, was built in 1965 and currently houses the school’s World Language and History departments. The building is severely outdated, does not meet today’s handicap or life-safety codes, and due to its age and structure cannot be renovated to meet code. The new Founders Hall will be a welcomed replacement to the aging Flavian Hall facility.
Saint John’s contracted Juster, Pope, Frazier LLC to design a new building which will house the World Language Department, Music and Fine Arts (theatre, voice, instrumental and visual arts) and Social Studies departments. The building plans also include specially designed rooms for music and visual arts in addition to the Performing Arts center, which will help Saint John’s in manifesting the school’s mission to educate the whole person.
Michael Welch ’78, the school’s headmaster, remarked that “this state-of-the-art facility will transform our campus and educational offerings for generations to come.”
The construction manager for the project is Lauring Construction Co., Inc. of Worcester, Massachusetts.
Interest in world languages has grown exponentially at Saint John’s in recent years. Seven years ago the school added Mandarin along with French and Spanish classes, which 12 percent of Saint John’s students now study. Saint John’s hopes to add a fourth language, either Arabic or Hindi, in the near future.
The new building will allow the school to continue to be a leader in world language offerings. “Our commitment to the study of world languages helps better prepare our students for the increasingly global society in which they will live and work,” says Mr. Welch.
The primary feature of the new building will the Performing Arts Center designed to have a profound impact on student life at Saint John’s. The introduction of the Black Box Theater at Saint John’s raised the awareness and visibility of the theater program and heightened the interest in all aspects of theater production among students – acting, design, and production. There are now three levels of Studio Art and AP Art History offered to students of the Visual Arts. Along with the Theatre course, the Drama Club presents three productions a year in the Black Box.
“Our growth in the area of fine arts these past fifteen years since the construction of the Ryken Center has in part resulted in our need to expand our facilities,” commented Mr. Welch. “Our visual arts, graphic arts, and performing arts allow us to more fully live out our mission to educate the whole person. This will allow us to better serve those students who are committed to the arts and eager for a Saint John’s education.”
The new performing arts center will have state-of-the-art capacities that will allow Saint John’s to continue to present entertaining theatre pieces on a much grander scale. Current theatrical lighting and sound capabilities will be enhanced with the addition of state-of-the art equipment controlled through a technology booth situated at the rear of the theater. Handicap seating will be available throughout the theater. The theater will be equipped with full fly space and theatrical rigging system in addition to an orchestra pit.
In addition to its use as a performance space, the Center will enable the school to hold full class assemblies in an appropriate setting. An entire class of 250 students will be able to gather in this space for lectures or special presentations. The Center will also enable choral and instrumental groups to host concerts in an acoustically well-designed venue.
Saint John’s currently offers a variety of music courses, from instrumental to vocal to music theory, and annually there are no less than six musical performances held in the 140-seat Remillard Hall, located in the Ryken Center.
The large two-story band room in the new building will allow for a full concert orchestra to practice in an appropriate space. The new art studio will be full of light and adequate space to allow students working in different mediums to explore their abilities further. Once the building is completed the school will be able to offer the AP Studio Art course.
Chairman of the Board Paul Stuka commented that “Flavian Hall has outlived its usefulness, as it was not originally intended to be a classroom setting. The new Founders Hall is truly advancing the school into the 21st century.”