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Church, school look forward to makeover

PALM SPRINGS  |  Sometimes, change doesn’t come easy. It has taken four years for St. Luke Parish and School to begin demolition on the parish center building and start construction on a school expansion.

A crew started the week of April 22, to take down the old building, which was the original church from 1961. It had been used as a parish hall/school cafeteria since 1991, consisting of 8,700 square feet with a stage, when the current church was built. The building was able to accommodate indoor physical education classes on rainy days.

The new building, next to the parish office and rectory, will feature about 27,000 square feet with a full-size gymnasium/parish hall with seating for 450, kitchen and cafeteria, and six classrooms on the second floor, including ones for science and art.

Father Andrew Brierley, St. Luke’s pastor, said the old building should be gone by May 20. “The permit drawings should be ready by the end of this week (April 26), so we’re going to submit for permit, and I’m hoping we can start construction almost immediately after. We’ve been told that the permits will go through very quickly. We’ve got all our contacts lined up.”

He said the total cost of the project is about $12 million, of which the parish has raised $5.5 million and the Diocese of Palm Beach is lending $6.5 million.

“I’m hoping, if we get going in June or July, we can open for the next school year, August 2025,” Father Brierley said. “That’s the goal. The contractors may think differently.”

The principal of St. Luke School, Diann Bacchus, said she remembers talking about the expansion project as a faculty member 10 years ago. “But really, as a principal, I see this as a great opportunity to — I don’t want to say compete with other schools — but get on par.”

Father Brierly added that “you have to compete with the charter schools, the public schools. Parents expect nice facilities, a science room, computer room, a gymnasium, fine arts. The public schools around are offering it. We’ve got to be able to say we can step up and provide the facilities.” He hopes that the parish and school keep growing.

“We’ve added over 1,200 families to the roll in the last 10 years,” he said. “The parish has grown. It’s almost doubled in size in 10 years. We’re right in the middle here of Lake Worth, Greenacres. The parish goes out a long way west. And it’s all young families. The bishop was here last night and confirmed 102 candidates, which was I think the biggest number in the diocese.”

With a strong economy and state scholarship programs, the outlook for Catholic schools is bright, Bacchus said. “We don’t want to lose that momentum.”

Another consideration, Father Brierley said, is that “there’s no state money for capital improvements. We have to raise it. That’s why I’m grateful the diocese has agreed to lend us what we need to complete the project.”

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