The Cardinal Gibbons High School community gathered Thursday to celebrate the completion of a $16 million renovation and expansion project.
After 18 months of construction, the Catholic high school now includes an arts and athletics wing, 10 additional classrooms, a two-story glass-walled entrance and a courtyard with an outdoor classroom.
“The most exciting part is seeing our students in the new spaces,” Principal Jason D. Curtis said.
Curtis said the improvements were needed to accommodate a student body that has grown from 760 students to nearly 1,300 since the school moved to its current location on Edwards Mill Road in 1999.
That growth has occurred as the Catholic population in the area has boomed. Membership in the Raleigh Diocese, which covers the eastern half of the state, grew by 42 percent between 2000 and 2010, to more than 220,000. That figure doesn’t include an estimated 200,000 people who attend Mass regularly but are not enrolled in a particular parish.
Beyond adding space, school leaders also wanted the project to create places that would encourage collaboration and community. Curtis said he has seen that idea come to fruition as families mingle in the main lobby after events and students work together in the courtyard – open, airy spaces that didn’t exist before.
Senior Isabela Zawistowska said her favorite feature is the school’s new two-story classroom wing. One wall of the wing is glass and looks out on the new courtyard.
The light-filled hallway “really nurtures an open mindset,” she said.
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge blessed the new building Thursday at a dedication ceremony attended by more than 25 priests from around the diocese.
The expansion and renovation were completed in two phases. The arts and athletics wing opened in January 2013, and the new classroom wing opened this school year.
The school also incorporated elements of its more than 100-year history into the project. An outdoor pavilion includes ceiling beams recycled from the gymnasium at the school’s former campus on Western Boulevard. A section of the old gymnasium’s baseline, which spells out “Crusaders” in a natural brown wood tone on a green background, is mounted on the wall of the lobby.
Senior Brandon Bales said students enjoyed watching the construction progress but that he did not anticipate how connected he would feel to the completed building when he walked through its doors earlier this month.
“I feel like every single student is a part of this,” he said. “It’s not just a building to look at.”