Debt-free Pacelli renovates building

Published 5:47 am Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pacelli High School is in the process of some major renovations, thanks in part to two consecutive years of finances running in the black.

“We are taking a lot of pride in our building,” said Norm Blaser, director of development for Austin Area Catholic Schools. “Now we are debt-free.”

About 6,000 PHS alumni were mailed newsletters in which a request was made for donations.

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The school has been using folding chairs in its second-floor auditorium for 15 years; now, they want to upgrade the space with green and black plush auditorium seats.

Alumni are being asked to “leave a legacy” and contribute $250 per seat; 210 seats is the goal. Donors’ names and graduating years will be placed on plaques.

Ten days after the newsletters were sent, the school has 44 donations, Blaser said Wednesday.

The idea started two years ago when the class of 1957 came for a tour, and one alumna wrote a check for the first auditorium seat.

“That led to another, and another, and we thought, ‘Let’s go for it,’” Blaser said.

“We have done some renovations paint-wise, curtain-wise and ceiling-wise, but not the seats,” he said.

The original seats were removed about 30 years ago, and the school used pews taken from St. Augustine’s after it burned. The long, wooden seats were not suited for the sloped floor.

“They just didn’t fit an auditorium,” Blaser said.

The pews were then removed, and the auditorium, which is used frequently for assemblies and plays, now has its signature green-colored metal folding chairs.

Future renovations to the auditorium include new lighting, sound and flooring, Blaser said. The carpet would be removed, and new carpet would line aisles and tile would be layed under seats.

Blaser said the seats will be installed “when we have enough money.”

Another major renovation is currently underway in the PHS gym: the Booster Club has provided $17,000 for painting on the walls and ceiling, as well as floor-sanding.

New gym lights were installed this year and a roof was replaced seven years ago; more modern bleachers were put in five years ago.

The floor will be sanded down to the bare wood possibly next week, and it will be refurbished with a new design mirroring that of a college floor, Blaser explained.

Though this year’s gym project was made possible by the Booster Club, other gym projects have been funded through alumni. Other projects in the near future include the second floor, which will house the middle school lockers; renovations are also planned for classrooms and restrooms on that floor. Additional projects in recent years have included asbestos abatement in a utility tunnel and a refurbished music room.

“Everything we do has to come out of donations,” Blaser said, not the budget. Fundraisers don’t usually draw enough donations to pay for a major project; therefore, alumni are really the lifeblood of the school’s operation.

Just a few years ago, the school was as much as $364,000 in the red. Enrollment, now at 300, is estimated to increase by 20 to 25 students next school year.

Pacelli High School opened in 1913 and is still located in the original building. Additions were added in 1953 and 1963.