By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator 

After a countdown of 3-2-1, Bishop Michael G. Duca cut the ribbon on the new 32,000-square-foot multipurpose building at St. Michael the Archangel High School in Baton Rouge on Monday, Aug. 19, delighting a parking lot audience filled with students, faculty, staff and supporters.  

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Catholic schools superintendent Dr. Melanie Palmisano looks on as Bishop Michael G. Duca blesses the new multipurpose building at St. Michael High School on Aug. 19.  Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator

 

From bands to basketball, theater to tournaments, Mass to mass gatherings the new facility can handle it all.  

“It’s very exciting; it’s the largest project we’ve undertaken in the last 14 years,” said principal Ellen Lee. “We’ll have a permanent stage area which we’ve never had before for our drama productions and school liturgies and, of course, the secondary location for physical education and athletics is just going to be wonderful.”  

St. Michael High School, built in 1984, had an early student population of more than 100 students. During the years, the number has mushroomed to 575 students. Add in extracurricular activities such as drama club, an award-winning, nationally-recognized band; boys’ and girls’ sports; plus liturgy and school officials said the campus definitely needed more space under roof.  

“It’s going to allow us to do basketball practices simultaneously,” said Josh Galasso, SMHS advancement director. “In previous years, students weren’t getting off the court until nine o’clock (at night), so this is allowing us to hold practices at the same time, allowing them to get home at a reasonable time and study.”  

SHMS basketball player Abby Button knows all too well the challenges of sharing one court. The student council president said she is excited about getting to use the facility in her final year at St. Michael. New locker rooms are connected to roomy new bathrooms for boys and girls, and there are large new offices for athletic and physical education staff.  

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The new multipurpose building is 32,000-square-feet and contains a permanent stage for liturgy, theater productions and band concerts.  

 

“It’s so neat to have the resources that we have now, like a new gym and all of the new rooms and the facility,” Button said, grinning. “It’s so fresh, like starting off the year with something new.”  

Band director Dr. Kevin (Doc) Andry said he was able to sit down with the architect several years ago and present his “wish list” for the space. The new band room features acoustic soundproofing; state-of-the art sound systems so students can hear playbacks of their performance; two smaller practice rooms; an office for the band director; and, a large storage room with a
garage door for students to easily load and unload instruments for off-campus rehearsals and performances.  

Another highlight of the design is the close proximity of the band room to the stage. In the past, Andry said students had to haul equipment from the band room to the gym, located across campus, sometimes causing damage to the instruments during transit.  

“I can speak for my students and my ‘band parents’ by saying that we are truly excited to be moving into a state-of-the-art high school band room,” Andry stated. “For years, we’ve rehearsed in a space that had ceilings that were too low, with less-than-adequate acoustics and sound systems. We had outgrown the old space and were in dire need for a new facility that would have adequate acoustics, ample storage space and practice rooms. Now, my band room is about 30 feet away from the stage where we will hold our concerts, and we won’t have the burden of placing tarps down on a gym floor every time we want to have a concert or perform at school liturgies.”   

Friday before the ribbon cutting ceremony, the entire student body got a first-look at the $7.2 million addition, many of them feeling like they were a permanent part of the school, with their names indelibly written within the spaces. During construction in May, faculty, staff and students signed the interior frame and walls of the new building.  

“Students gathered during their lunch periods to sign their name or write their favorite Bible verse on the walls so that they could forever be a part of the multipurpose building and the history at St. Michael High School,” explained Galasso.  

Three months later, students were once again gathered, this time for the blessing of the multipurpose building by Bishop Duca who asked God “for his hand to watch over this building and all the students here.”  

“We ask your blessing on this new addition to the campus as a new resource to fulfill this mission of St. Michael High School,” Bishop Duca said. “We ask that those you entrust with the education of our children within these walls may teach our students how to join the discoveries of human wisdom with the truth of the Gospel, that they will be able to keep the true faith and to live it in their lives as warriors for Christ, with this education and lively faith, we pray that they will become the salt of the earth, our faith-filled leaders for the church and for the community in the future.” 

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 The new band room has acoustic soundproofing, state-of-the art sound systems and two smaller practice rooms.