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Photo Credit: Sid Hastings

New addition boosts academic, art, physical education

Cor Jesu Academy’s project enhances facilities, collaborative learning

Cor Jesu Academy teacher JoEllen Sarich moved from table to table in the programming class. where no desks faced the blackboard, as in traditional classrooms.

That's because this class focuses on collaboration as ideas are shared in a process to reach a conclusion to a project. The new classroom, with tables and up-to-date technology, is ideal for the subject being taught.

It's part of a multi-million-dollar project that opened for the new school year. Included are four classrooms that enable the school to add new course offerings; a gymnasium with two full courts and permanent bleachers; a student commons; a dance studio/multipurpose room; athletic offices; and more.

Sydney Henry, a senior, said that as a basketball player, "I could not wait for the new gym to be built."

But there's much more to the new addition that Henry appreciates. One of the classrooms is tailor-made for her law and legal class, which recently scheduled a video conference with a representative of the federal courts. A large screen and microphones in the room make for an easy process. In addition, she said, "just being able to send what's on our computer screen onto the video screen has been helpful already. We've been doing a lot of group and collaborative projects, so we're able to present there without having to plug in cords and having compatibility issues."

The room also is ideal for mock trials the class will conduct, Henry added.

Another senior, Claudia Sahm, appreciates the new weight and workout rooms she uses in training or recovering from injuries as a member of the cross country team. While the athletic facilities are important for students, she said, the classrooms can't be overlooked because "everyone here wants to learn."

The smallest room, a seminar room, is used by students learning Chinese or Spanish, for example, using a large screen, casual seating and tables for laptops.

Sister Barbara Thomas, ASCJ, president of Cor Jesu, said teachers are using innovative classroom techniques because of technology available in the classrooms. "Watching that happen and watching the girls immediately get on board and learn right alongside of them has been exactly what we hoped for," Sister Barbara said. "It's inspiring the teachers and will prepare our students for the future in so many ways."

The student commons is a large space with artwork and murals on the walls depicting Cor Jesu's 60-year history through its core values. "It's meant to be student space — space to gather and build community. When you look up at the murals you see community," Sister Barbara said.

The new addition gives students a feel of a college atmosphere but more importantly a space for collaborating. And the technology connects them with professionals in various fields. "Their world's opened up a little bit because of the new facilities we have," Sister Barbara said.

The intention wasn't to expand enrollment — a comfort level exists at about 600 students. "We're full right now. It's a strong community. The student-teacher ratio is 12-1, and we try to keep our classes small," Sister Barbara said.

Cor Jesu focuses on educating young women in their faith and academics, sending them out to transform the world through their faith, compassion, integrity and impassioned service. "It's been going on for 60 years," the school president said, "and we need to keep that tradition going." 

>> New addition

A new 40,000-square-foot, three-level addition at Cor Jesu Academy is the second part of the Catholic, private, all-girl high school's long-range campus enhancement plan to be completed. The project was funded by a $9.96 million capital campaign launched in 2014 to provide a range of new facilities, including site improvements, increased on-campus parking and increased financial aid for qualifying students.

"Thanks to our successful capital campaign, we have expanded our innovative academic programs and grown our endowment fund, which currently provides financial assistance to 28 percent of our student body, in order for Cor Jesu to continue fulfilling our mission of educating the whole person and to prepare our young women to be future leaders for our Church and for our world," said Sister Barbara Thomas, ASCJ, president of Cor Jesu Academy. "By focusing on the total education of the young women entrusted to us, these facilities will help us provide even more meaningful learning environments and experiences that meet the needs of all our students today and well into the future."

Construction on the project began in April 2016 and was completed on schedule. S. M. Wilson & Co. was construction manager for the project, and Hastings + Chivetta was the project architect. Both firms engaged Cor Jesu students and faculty in STEM-related learning experiences as part of the building project throughout the 2016-17 academic year.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson dedicated the facilities at the official opening Aug. 6.

Cor Jesu Academy is a college-preparatory high school for young women founded in 1956 and operated by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Students from 60 zip codes attend the school and come from more than 100 Catholic, public, private and home-schooling learning environments. For more information, visit www.corjesu.org. 

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