Brunswick, Ga.- The bundles of gold, black and white balloons were the first indication that something special was set to take place inside of the St. Francis Xavier Catholic School gymnasium Friday morning. The table full of fruit cups, orange juice and sweet tea and visiting dignitaries like Bishop Stephen Parkes, D.D. and city of Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey was another clue. The school revealed plans for a new building and surrounding campus this morning as students, faculty and guests looked on. St. Francis Xavier Church, Brunswick pastor Father Tim McKeown welcomed everyone and spoke on the long-awaited project. “This has been a seven-year process to get to this day,” said McKeown who also acknowledged the Bishop, the City of Brunswick’s administration, the many parishioners that contributed to the efforts necessary to have this project take place and the late Monsignor John Kenneally, who he said was another active supporter of this project.
The official groundbreaking is scheduled to take place this summer with the building scheduled to open to students and faculty in the fall of 2022. The current St. Francis Xavier Catholic School building has been in use since 1958. The school has been educating students in Brunswick and surrounding Glynn County for 121 years. The current student enrollment at the school is 174 with the new building being better equipped to have a 300-student capacity.
Bishop Parkes gave the invocation and followed that with thoughts on the new building and what that will mean to the Catholic community of Brunswick and the Diocese of Savannah going forward. “Today is a historical moment because it’s our opportunity to see what this future is going to be,” said Parkes moments after a group of St. Francis Xavier eighth-graders came to the front of gym to remove the coverings that were hiding the renditions of what the new buildings interior and exterior will look like. “We pray for God’s continued wisdom, his grace and continued creativity on this great project.
He continued, “It’s not about the walls but what goes on inside them.”
What will take place inside of the walls of the new building will be impressive nonetheless, with 20 x 10 foot windows looking out onto a 3202 sq. ft. outdoor playground with soft play surface and basketball half-court. The school’s daycare will also have an outdoor playground (1407 sq. ft.) with similar play surface. There are also plans for a state-of-the-art computer lab, science lab, and fine arts studio. According to Felder and Associates AP Principal Brian Felder the lobby will be fitted with “limited entry points” for better security. Both he and the Savannah-based architecture firm’s project manager Brian Claus were in attendance. Felder explained further designs and functionality of the project to those assembled.
St. Francis Xavier Principal Deacon Dr. Terry Mermann talked about continuing the school’s mission of education and faith formation. “Last night I was so excited, it felt like Christmas Eve,” said Mermann. “We’re really looking forward to having this excellent opportunity to reflect the quality of education we teach here at St. Francis Xavier. It’s wonderful to be having a new school [building] but it’s important to have traditions too. The new building is going to reflect that.”
Mermann used an acronym, S.T.R.E.A.M., Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math, to emphasize the type of education that will continue at St. Francis Xavier and will become more convenient within the new facility. “We are ready to move into a new building. I think this will take us into the next 50, 75 years.”
Mayor Harvey added that he was “excited” about the new school building and that St. Francis Xavier was “an anchor for the south end” of the city.