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Construction on St. Henry's School nears completion

Six years and millions of dollars of fundraising later, construction on St. Henry's Area School is taking shape.

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Construction workers build the entrance to the new addition to St. Henry's.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — After a dream that started nearly six and half years, the new St. Henry's Area School is almost complete. Construction originally began about one year ago in 2021 and will hopefully be complete this summer in time for the 2022–23 school year.

"(Seeing this project near completion) has been very interesting," said Jason Smith, the principal of St. Henry's Area School. "We're excited."

The project started years ago with prayer group and was made possible through the millions of dollars raised throughout the community. According to Smith, there's no funding source for Catholic schools. Because of that, this new building's construction — which cost over $8 million — wouldn't have been possible without community donations.

"People are investing in their kids here," Smith said. He believes that St. Henry's Area School is one of very few Catholic schools in Minnesota that were able to completely construct a new building.

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The new addition to St. Henry's connects directly to the church.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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This space will function as a fellowship hall, gym, and lunch room.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

This new addition connects directly to the church, so it can be a shared space between both the school and the church. An Adoration Chapel will be built in the shared space, as well. The doors to the school, however, will be locked during school hours in order to protect the safety of students.

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There are also several new outdoor entrances, which can be seen on the east side of the building, including the entrance to the brand new fellowship hall. This room will function as a combination gymnasium and lunch room for the school and a fellowship hall for the church. Off to the side, there will be a kitchen for those who wish to hold weddings reception in the hall.

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This space will be the new adoration chapel, located close to where the new addition connects to the church.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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Jason Smith, the principal of St. Henry's Area School, points out where the green space will be located outside of the new school.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

There is also an outdoor entrance to the new school, which will have locked doors on the inside during school hours itself for the safety of students. Natural light with large windows and open spaces is being incorporated all throughout the building, and new green space will be included around it on the outside.

There will even be a common space with a skylight above and fun furnishings. Classrooms will have up-to-date technology, such as touch television screens. They will also have a break-off room for students who need to get alone and be by themselves for a little while.

A teacher lounge, offices, and storage are also incorporated all throughout the new school, so there will be something new for everyone.

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Some new cubbies sit in a new classroom at St. Henry's Area School as it nears completion.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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The outside of the new St. Henry's addition is being constructed to blend in well with the existing church.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

During the last week of the 2021–22 school year, Smith said that students put together time capsules to put in the pillar of the school entrance. Because these objects are inside the pillar, Smith said they probably won't be opened until the next time there's a large construction project.

"Thank you to all those that helped — those that gave to it and those that have been praying for the success of it," Smith said, "The fact that we were able to raise that kind of money, especially during a pandemic, (is amazing)."

For more information or to enroll your kids in St. Henry's Area School, go to sthenrysareaschool.com . The school teaches grades k–6, with a separate preschool. You can reach them at 218-346-6190 or sthenryschool@arvig.net.

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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