Coatesville Area Catholic Elementary School will have a new name and home at its grand opening this fall. The school will be renamed Pope John Paul 11 Regional Elementary School and will be located on Manor Road, off Route 82 in West Brandywine Township.
"We will be spending more than 20 million dollars between the new school and the new church of St Peter," said Father Fitzpatrick, pastor of St. Peter's Church. He added, "The parishioners of this whole area are investing 10's of millions to benefit the education of the whole Coatesville area. We hope that this will benefit every child who chooses to come to our school."
This sate of the art facility will serve over 4,000 families from the five parishes as the first ever regional elementary school of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The five parishes the school serves are: St Cecilia, St Stanislaus Kostka, St. Joseph, Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Peter.
"We did not plan to leave the city of Coatesville. The only reason we are leaving is because we could not afford to buy 30 acres of land in the city of Coatesville," said
Father Brouwers, pastor of Our lady of the Rosary and the chief in charge of the school building process.
However, the dream to build a new school took 15 years to come to fruition. In the early 90's it became apparent to church officials that it was a monumentally difficult task to run one school from three different buildings and locations. Presently, students of the elementary school go to St. Cecilia, grades 5-6 to St. Stanislaus Kostka and grades 7-8 to St. Joseph. Moreover apart from the inconvenience of it all, these buildings were ranging in age from 50 to 100 years and were rapidly beginning to show their age. The recreational facilities in these buildings were also limited.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia requires that parish schools be built on parish grounds. Since none of the parish grounds were large enough to accommodate one school, the parishioners and pastors of Our Lady of the Rosary church seriously looked at buying homes that adjoined the church property, but the homeowners were unwilling to sell their land to the church. The Church also ran into some difficulty in getting zoning and land development permits from the township. Meanwhile, one of the school parishes, St. Peter's, had made three unsuccessful attempts to move from its current location in Honey brook.
Sometime during the 1960s The Archdiocese of Philadelphia bought 500 acres of land in West Brandywine Township. This land was to be dedicated for various Archdiocese institutions like cemeteries, parishes and nursing homes. The Archdiocese finally agreed to allow St. Peters Church and the school to move to this parcel of land in West Brandywine Township. The school purchased 30 acres from the Archdiocese and the church purchased 50 acres.
Father Brouwers noted that the need for St. Peters to move its location coupled with the problems of the Coatesville School made it possible for the school to have its new home. Father Fitzpatrick reiterated this sentiment. He said, "It is indeed very fortuitous for us that our previous efforts to move St. Peters parish were not successful. God does operate in mysterious ways. He had a better plan in mind for us."
The new school will accommodate 900 students. The school will have a state of the art computer lab, science lab, art studio, music studios, library, a gymnasium, soccer field and baseball diamond. Currently there are 482 students. Father Fitzpatrick anticipates that an additional 2,500 students from the public schools will come in after school hours for religious education.
St. Peter's church will be the largest Coatesville church with a seating for 11,000. The finished church will have several new design elements. The Stations of the Cross are being hand carved by Mr. Robert McGovern an artist from Narberth. The stained glass is being designed by Joseph Beyer who has a studio in Philadelphia. The altar and some other features are being designed by Michael 'O`Rourke. All these features are unique works of art that are being designed especially for the church.
Just north of the school, plans are under way to open a new cemetery for parishioners.
The school began a capital campaign in 2001 and has so far received funds of approximately 3.5 million from the parishioners of the estimated 10.8 million dollars. The school has taken an additional loan of 7.3 million dollars from the Archdiocese. The school has several fund-raisers throughout the year. Some of the fund-raisers organized by the school include the CACES PACES Walkathon, the CACES cabaret which is a talent show and A CACES silent auction.