Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory has broken ground on a classroom building that is expected to open in 2022. An artist rendering provides a glimpse of what the building could look like.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory has broken ground on a classroom building that is expected to open in 2022. An artist rendering provides a glimpse of what the building could look like.

Image provided by Chris Czarnik


St. Mary’s breaks ground on new building for ‘state-of-the-art’ classrooms

New girls division sees waitlist

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 11, 2021

 A current artist rendering of a school building that is expected to be 29,000 square feet may be a reality on the campus of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory in the fall 2022 semester.

A current artist rendering of a school building that is expected to be 29,000 square feet may be a reality on the campus of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory in the fall 2022 semester.

Image provided by Chris Czarnik

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ORCHARD LAKE — Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory High School Headmaster Bob Pyles recently described the school’s campus as “beautiful.”

Come next year, the campus’ look is expected to be enhanced even further. On May 18, the school broke ground on a new classroom building that is slated to open for the fall 2022 semester.

The 29,000-square-foot building will serve both the boys and the girls divisions at the school.

It will overlook Orchard Lake and house 20 “state-of-the-art” classrooms, as well as collaborative learning spaces.

According to a press release, the building is part of an ongoing capital investment in St. Mary’s teaching facilities, with the transformation of the school library’s lower level into classrooms — a renovation of the “prep” building having already been completed.

The school’s chairman of the preparatory board of trustees, Andrew Harrington, said that “the entire project, between the restoration that we did on the historic classroom building and this new one, is about $14.6 million, and this new building is about $12 million.”

According to the release, the work is being funded by private donations through a capital campaign, with $9.5 million in gifts and pledges toward the goal.

Adding a new building on the campus was not merely an overnight whim.

“This new building has been something that we’ve been trying to get off the ground for quite some time,” Harrington said. “Through the generosity of a couple of key donors, we finally got far enough along that we were comfortable, and the Board of Regents had confidence in the growth that we were showing, that we could launch the project. We’d had it on our radar with just the boys, but especially with the growth that we saw with the girls, we needed the classroom space, and we just wanted to have a beautiful environment with the technology and everything else, (so) that these kids would have an excellent learning environment.”

The school was established in 1885, and after previously only admitting boys, Harrington said, it launched a girls’ division this year.

He said there are 85 freshman girls registered for next year, with 30 on the waitlist, in addition to 42 who are expected to return who will be sophomores.

In total, between the boys’ and girls’ divisions, Harrington estimated that there are about 520 students at St. Mary’s this year.

From Pyles’ perspective, the new building can add “much-needed space” for the school.

“This is my third year, and I know they’ve been looking at this for quite some time,” he said. “Our enrollment was increasing. … We felt that it was a need to do some updating on the campus and, looking at the buildings that we have on campus, decided it would be best to do a new building instead of renovating the buildings that are existing right now.”

Pyles expects the building to have the “very best,” in terms of technology.

He is not alone in his excitement, as he said the feedback has been positive.

“When I’ve talked to our parent groups about the new building. They were like, ‘I hope we have this before my son or my daughter exits.’ … I think people realize that there’s a need to have this building, and I think they’re excited to have their kids in it.”

Harrington said general classes will be divided between the existing prep building and the new one, which can provide a nice advantage.

He estimated that there are currently 12 to 15 buildings on campus.

“Currently, they are spread out around campus quite a bit,” Harrington said. “Between the dorm and a couple other buildings, we’ll be able to consolidate.”

Harrington thinks that the new building is going to give St. Mary’s a “showplace” that can help even more with recruitment. The students at the school could be in for a treat that not many others are privy to.

“A campus that I don’t think anybody, certainly in the state, can touch,” Harrington said.

Those who like the current look of the campus may not have much to worry about.

“The architects have done a great job of designing it so it fits the tradition of the buildings that we have on campus,” Pyles said. “I think it’s all very, very positive. It’s like getting a new car. You might have a car, then when you get a new car, you have all those other features that are pretty nice.”

Harrington is pleased with the path the school is on.

“I think that it’s been just such a positive experience having the girls on campus,” he said. “It’s added a lot to the culture of the campus, and where you’ve seen nationally attendance in Catholic schools shrinking, ours has actually been growing. So I think that says a lot about the faculty and administration at the school, and we’re really excited to see that growth continue.”

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