Catholic school breaks ground on its first gym

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 10/17/18

MIDDLEBURG – By next spring, the students of Annunciation Catholic School will have a brand-new, state-of-the-art gym to use for school sports and physical education.

The inter-parish school …

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Catholic school breaks ground on its first gym

Posted

MIDDLEBURG – By next spring, the students of Annunciation Catholic School will have a brand-new, state-of-the-art gym to use for school sports and physical education.

The inter-parish school celebrated its 25th anniversary in June by breaking ground on a gym that’s the school has wanted to build since day one back in 1993. Despite the desire to build the gym since the school’s founding, the money just wasn’t there. Now, after years of fundraising and parish efforts, it’s finally coming to fruition.

“We wanted to make the 25th anniversary special and we all agreed that it would be nice if 25 years of hopes and dreams became a reality in the form of this building [the gym],” Andy Blaszkowski, school administrator and pastor of St. Luke’s Catholic Church, which is one of the church’s inter-parish sponsors.

When the gym is completed next year, in late May or early June, pre-k students to eighth graders will be able to enjoy an amenity they’ve never had at the school before. For the first time in Annunciation history, basketball players will be able to practice inside their own gym, rather than at Bishop Snyder High School’s gym or outside.

“I had a friend who used to tell me, ‘basketball and sunscreen don’t go together,’ so I’m excited to get our kids inside on a basketball court,” Blaszkowski said.

This gym, when it’s up and complete, will add 12,000 square feet to the school and will leave a $2.1 million dent in its pockets. Fortunately, the school has been saving up for this gym for years. According to the Annunciation Victoria Farrington, it was the collective efforts of the school’s three parishes and fundraising that funded the decades-old dream. Along with St. Luke’s, the school is sponsored by St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Orange Park and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Fleming Island who each paid monthly dues to bring the gym to life.

On top of that, Annunciation saw 30 percent of the gym’s cost covered by fundraising.

“We have a yearly golf tournament, dinners, auctions and we even get the students involved,” Farrington said.

Farrington recalled one year where students could pay one dollar to receive a raffle ticket for a drawing of the grand prize – a giant, fluffy, purple monkey.

“We raised $1,300 off of that,” Farrington said. “I guess these kids really wanted that monkey!”

When the gym construction, which is being done by Jacksonville-based Crabtree Construction, is complete next year, the school will begin gathering funds for phase two of the project: a new cafeteria with a stage.

According to Blaszkowski, both of these phases would have happened significantly sooner, but after some of the costs came back as too expensive, and after the 2008 recession, the project had to be put on hold. In the meantime, the school built a Science and Arts building to accommodate growing enrollment numbers. Still though, the staff, students and parents have always wanted the gym.

“We do parent and student surveys and the No. 1 thing they want is a gym,” Farrington said. “We have alumni and their parents excited to see this thing go up because, like us, they’ve wanted to see the school get a gym for years and years. It’s a fulfillment of the community.”

Farrington said having the gym will help round out Annunciation, a school that in all other aspects other than gym facilities, is a robust learning community.

According to Farrington, the past two years’ worth of valedictorians at both Ridgeview High School and Bishop Snyder High School were Annunciation Catholic School students in their K-8 years leading up to high school.

With the end in sight, Blaszkowski is prepared to see Annunciation’s education taken to new heights by the gym. For him, the gym is another facet of the quality of Catholic education the school offers.

“This gym goes back to the whole idea of Catholic education,” Blaszkowski said. “We try for excellence and we are that in the academic part. Now, we can support the physical education aspect with the excellence we already provide everywhere else with our new state-of-the-art facility.”

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