Glenwood Catholic school eyes expansion |

Glenwood Catholic school eyes expansion

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentStudents in Sara Malloy's first-grade class at St. Stephen's Catholic School in Glenwood Springs gather around as they read to each other Tuesday morning. The school is experiencing some overcrowding as enrollment grows yearly.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The new school year will be a pivotal one for St. Stephen’s Catholic School in Glenwood Springs.

Since 2006, the parochial school’s student population has increased 23 percent. This fall, with 146 enrolled students as of Aug. 29, the school is reaching its capacity.

“We’ve thought that we were increasing well in the past couple of years,” said Principal Thomas Alby. “And now we’ve arrived.”

The school has seen an increase in enrollment for each of the past five years, Alby said. And while increased attendance is good news for the school, growth also brings challenges. St. Stephen’s is in the preliminary stages of planning an addition to the school.

Increasing attendance “is definitely good news,” said Cliff McMillan, a priest at the school. “But whenever you’re growing you have growing pains. And this is part of the process of growing.”

According to McMillan, planning an expansion is a long process that the church only just begun. Discussions with the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver about such a project have not yet been held, but that would be the first step.

“First, we have to determine if the expansion is an absolute necessity,” McMillan said.

Then, financing becomes an issue. Because St. Stephen’s is a private school, it must rely on donors to help fund the project.

“One of the things that we have to deal with is the fact that we don’t have a tax base to draw from that says we have the money,” McMillan said. “We are completely dependent on our donors.”

Since planning is in the preliminary stages, costs have yet to be estimated. But, how the current school year plays out will be a key consideration, McMillan said.

“This year is going to be a telling year with the way the economy is,” he said. “If we hold steady through this year, it will be a good indicator that expansion is needed.”

McMillan said conceptual plans call for eight additional classrooms, a gymnasium, new administration offices and a convent. Currently, the administration offices are located in the front of the existing facility while the school’s existing gymnasium is located in basement of the church.

In the minds of both Alby and McMillan, the school’s increase in enrollment is a testament to the school’s success.

“The interest that has peaked in Glenwood toward St. Stephen’s is that people are finding out that we’ve got a wonderful school here and that it’s open to not only Catholics but anyone,” McMillan said. “We’ve been a hidden secret in a sense, in the past we’ve not had that much attention, but people have discovered we’ve got a real gem here.”

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