Officials tour Brockton school site

BROCKTON -- With the new school year fast approaching, Catholic educators and construction company officials joined Brockton Mayor James E. Harrington and members of the city council on an Aug. 3 inspection of the two campuses of Trinity Catholic Academy, which will be the model for the archdiocese’s regional school plan.

“This is great for the kids,” said the mayor standing in the main hallway of the lower campus building, the former St. Edward School on the grounds of St. Edith Stein Church. The upper campus building is the former St. Colman School.

Harrington, whose daughter attended the school in the 1960s, said the city has a long tradition of Catholic education and he is thrilled the archdiocese chose Brockton as the pilot site for its 2010 Initiative -- a plan to revitalize schools in the archdiocese that was announced in August 2005.

The mayor said the working relationship between the city and the archdiocese has been universally positive. “The archdiocese has far exceeded my expectations in terms of the investments made to repair and upgrade these schools.”

The tour was led by Mark L. DiNapoli, the general manager of Suffolk Construction, the company renovating the two facilities. The group also included John Fish, chairman of Suffolk Construction; Father James A. Flavin, the pastor of St. Edith Stein Parish; Father David O’Donnell, the pastor of Christ the King Parish; Pauline A. Labouliere, the lower campus principal; Susan W. Holm, the principal of the upper campus and Peter Silva, who is overseeing the construction for the archdiocese.

The lower campus school will have classes for pre-school through third grade. The school has room for 260 students and the current enrollment is 220, said Labouliere.

The upper campus will be for grades four through eight, said Holm.

The upper campus has a capacity of 250 students and was expected to open Sept. 10 with an enrollment of 248, she said.

Both schools draw on the communities of Brockton, Bridgewater, Randolph, Stoughton and Easton, she said.

The process of conflating parish schools into a region has been difficult, but not impossible, Labouliere said. “The Catholic schools were always a system of schools, not a school system.”

One example of how teachers, parents and students worked through the new dynamic was the decision to retire the plaids used in the uniforms of the closed schools, she said.

A parent committee reviewed suggestions for the new uniform plaids and came up with two final choices, a gray and maroon small plaid and a burgundy and white large plaid, she said.

The students then voted and the burgundy and white won out, she said.

DiNapoli said both buildings were in good condition structurally, but all of the heating, plumbing and electrical systems had to be upgraded. When they reopen, the schools will also have modern communications, public address and data transmission equipment.

These upgrades not only will improve the cost efficiency of the buildings, but because newer systems are more compact, there has been a significant amount of usable space added to the buildings, he said. The extra space will be used for offices, classrooms and storage.

At the lower campus, the former St. Edward’s, where students once ate in their classrooms, there is now a cafeteria, he said.

Father Flavin said the renovations at the school will include classrooms and offices to support St. Edith Stein’s religious education classes and the parish’s outreach to the Cape Verdean community, which will have independent access and security systems.

On the grounds of the upper campus, the old convent was demolished the week before the tour to open space for a playground and landscaping, he said.

“We had to play in the parking lot and that was really the only problem at the school when I went here,” said City Councilor Brian T. Brophy, who represents Ward 5 or the East Side of the city, which includes the school.

Brophy said he attended the school from 1965 to 1971 --for the first five years it was a Catholic school and then in his last year it was rented by the city and used as a public school.

City Councilor Dennis R. Eaniri, who served in the Ward 5 seat before his election to an at-large seat said he also attended the former St. Colman School.

“It did bother me when they took down the convent, but I understand,” he said. “I watched the school being built and now I am watching it being re-built.”