COLUMBIA – Cars lined the narrow gravel road in front of the Father Tolton Regional Catholic High School building on Friday evening as future students, parents and teachers met for the school’s “top-off party.”
Principal Kristie Wolfe presided over a gathering of about 150 people who came to celebrate the completion of the roof on the academic wing.
Wolfe greeted the group and announced that the school would be finished in the fall, a statement answered by applause and a few cheers. She identified some of the construction areas, including the gym, a few classrooms and storage space.
“And over there is where the trophy cases will hold all our state championship trophies,” she said with a laugh.
Columbia's first Catholic high school, under construction at U.S. 63 and Gans Road, will open to ninth- and 10th-grade students in early September. Grade 11 will be added in 2012, and grade 12 will be added the following year.
Among those touring the site Friday was Marcie Elfrink, a Columbia resident with four children in preschool, first, fourth and sixth grades. Her oldest is two years away from high school, and Elfrink said there’s a good chance her children will attend Tolton Catholic.
“It’s something we’ve been waiting for, for a long time,” Elfrink said. “I think the kids are really going to benefit from having a Catholic high school.”
Teri Arms’ son, Aaron, is a freshman in public school. Coming out of Catholic grade school, she said he’s a little uncomfortable with the large class sizes.
He has already applied to enroll in Tolton Catholic in the fall, but the family is concerned about the commute from Fulton, which Arms timed at 32 minutes. Aaron’s current school is only 10 minutes away, but he is still seriously considering the new high school.
“He’s thinking this will be a better fit,” she said. “We’re hoping it can work into our plans.”
Martha Gahl, Sarah Jolley and Emily Schachtner are finishing their last year at Columbia Catholic School and are looking forward to starting at Tolton Catholic in the fall.
“There’s more individual attention and a closer-knit community,” Sarah said.
The girls estimated that at least 20 students from their class at Columbia Catholic would be attending Tolton.
At least two future teachers attended Friday's event. David Anderson will teach art and Pat Kelly will handle social studies. Both just completed their student teaching stints.
*Anderson went to Columbia Catholic School from kindergarten through eighth grade and worked in an after school program at Columbia Catholic from 2007 to 2010. Kelly was a student at St. Agnes Elementary School and Springfield Catholic High School.
“It’s pretty exciting to have a job, let alone in a new building,” Kelly said.