St. John Neumann begins construction on fifth- and sixth-grade building

Students of St. John Neumann School watch the construction progress on campus. (Photo Provided)

Students of St. John Neumann School watch the construction progress on campus. (Photo Provided)COLUMBIA—When students at St. John Neumann started school recently, they discovered something new on their campus: earth movers.

The construction vehicles were there to start work on a new two-story building that will house four classes of fifth- and sixth-graders, plus an additional four rooms on the bottom floor, said Barbara Cole, principal.

At first, the bottom floor will be used as office and storage space, but Cole said three of those rooms could be used as classrooms in the future.

She said the students should be in their new digs by Christmas, and they are beyond excited by the prospect.

“On the first day, my sixth-graders saw the dirt being moved and they were so excited they went out and cheered,” Cole said.

The students were so loud even the man operating the bulldozer heard them and smiled at their exuberance.

Cole said the idea for expansion was first broached seven years ago, when officials heard a magnet school was going to be built down the road. They became concerned about the need to compete for students and took their ideas to the school advisory board.

The principal praised the board’s willingness to decrease class size, changing it from two classrooms of 24 students to three classrooms with 18 students. She said it is better for learning, teaching and maintaining a family atmosphere.

By deciding to change the classroom size, it wasn’t long before the school ran out of space.

Cole said for the past five years they have socked all their profits into a savings account toward their goal, and this year joined with Pizutti Builders to make it a reality.

Even though they are shy of the full amount, Cole said the parish has offered a loan of $215,000 if they need it, and she hopes to receive a grant for which she applied.

Parishioners and community members have also joined the effort, with dozens of people calling to make donations. The school is also selling engraved bricks and plaques until Sept. 30.