Linda Oppelt

St. Mary’s High School explores options for new campus

by John Stiner

COLORADO SPRINGS. Aug. 22, 1992, was the first day of classes for St. Mary’s High School at the current campus on Yampa Street. After holding classes for 107 years in downtown Colorado Springs, the school embarked on a new chapter in its already long history.

The Yampa campus, purchased from the Tri-County Easter Seals Society, was already nearly 30 years old; but it possessed adequate classroom and office space, making it an attractive location for immediate occupation. In talking with those who were a part of the school community in 1992; there was a sense, a hope, that the Yampa campus would be a temporary solution.

As time marched on, the Yampa campus became more and more permanent; and the existing facilities served the students well. Thoughtful investments in infrastructure added important features to the student experience. Those investments included the St. Leo chapel, a cafeteria, theater space, a gymnasium and weight room, an art room, and several additional classrooms.

However, over the last 30 years, there was a faint sense of impermanence, a feeling that the school belonged elsewhere. As the facilities started to show their age, and as the lack of access to major traffic arteries made it increasingly difficult for the sprawling Colorado Springs community to gain easy access to the campus, it became clear that consideration of a new location was in order.

As those discussions were beginning to take place among the board of directors, the school received an invitation from the Diocese of Colorado Springs to participate in a feasibility study. The Meitler Group, a Catholic research organization with experience in 44 states and over 100 dioceses, conducted the study.

Meitler embraced several purposes of the study, including gathering a broad spectrum of demographic data from across the diocese and looking at opportunities for new parish and school locations. Embedded within the study was a goal to provide research and analysis for the potential relocation of St. Mary’s High School.

The major portion of the study took six months to complete. Meitler compiled demographic and financial data to determine if the community was capable of absorbing the cost and impact of relocating St. Mary’s.

Unsurprisingly, the study uncovered that there is strong support in the community to relocate the high school, and the community has the financial capacity to do so.

The most significant study recommendations specific to St. Mary’s were to move the school closer to the area of the greatest expected population growth, to consolidate all facilities into one integrated campus, and to draft a strategic vision that builds on the existing Catholic identity and academic excellence that are the core strengths of the first 137 years of school history.

The work of relocating the school actually began before the feasibility study was complete. That work, effectively a “phase 0” of the relocation plan, included assessing community support, both conceptually and financially.

The feasibility study confirms that support exists now, so the next step is a phase 1 approach of assessing existing facility value, and anticipating future facility needs. That process is well underway.

School president Deacon Rob Rysavy is understandably thrilled with the outcome of the feasibility study and the work leading up to it.

“There is vocal as well as behind-the-scenes support in the community to get our students, faculty and staff into an updated facility worthy of the excellence that has been a trademark of the school for 137 years. This study gives us a place to plant our feet and faithfully ‘put out into deep water,’” he said.

As Deacon Rysavy said, this study is simply a “place to plant our feet,” a jumping off point. There is much work still to do, but that work will be greatly rewarding and will ensure that the next 137 years for St. Mary’s are even brighter than the first 137 years.

(John Stinar is the Chair of the St. Mary’s High School Board of Directors)

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