School officials brought their hard hats and shovels to Carmel Catholic High School Thursday for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of work on a new Information Commons and Fine Arts Center.
The $6 million project, which has been five years in the making, will renovate the Mundelein school's existing library and monastery, adding over 8,000 square feet to the current structures.
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The Information Commons will upgrade the school's existing library with a 3,000 square foot addition to expand study rooms and build a technology studio.
The Fine Arts Center will house a dance studio, black box theater, three visual art rooms, photography rooms, and a practice room for bands and the school's chorus.
"With the addition of these new instructional spaces, Carmel Catholic demonstrates its continued commitment to the attainment of the highest level of college preparatory education for our students," school President Judith Mucheck said.
The project was pushed because of the overcrowding in classrooms -- in some cases, classrooms designed to hold 20 students were filled with as many as 60 -- and to prevent students from choosing other schools with better fine arts facilities, she added.
"Out of all the high schools I've seen, Carmel's student body seems to integrate more fine arts into the student experience, and we hope to keep it that way," said Greg Hirsch, chairman of the school's board of directors.
The school started its "Carmel at the Threshold" campaign to raise funds for the project, asking alumni, faculty, and members of the public to make pledges.
Hirsch, who has two children that graduated from Carmel and one still enrolled, said the additions are positive signs for the future educational success of students.
"This is amazing, it's a marvelous day for all of us and the school that we have this opportunity now to do something that we've looked forward to for such a long time," he said.
The expansion project will take about 12 months to complete.