Future Cardinal Newman students could some day enjoy a lake view in a bucolic setting, a stark contrast to the urban setting of today’s school on Forest Drive.
The dream of a new campus has been in the works for at least two decades.
But now administrators with the private Catholic school are one step closer, after its diocese in Charleston gave them the green light to begin initial site clearing and other preliminary work for the new campus, on 50 acres off Alpine Road in Northeast Richland. That work could begin later this year.
The new Cardinal Newman campus will include more academic and athletic space for the school’s 440 students, as well as a fine arts center and a chapel with seating for 150.
The school will be designed in the form of a cross, with a central dome-capped area serving as a rotunda.
“It’s a beautiful design,” said Cardinal Newman principal Jacqualine Kasprowski.
The green light from the diocese to move ahead comes after the school met a $2.5 million capital campaign fundraising goal last summer , with roughly $300,000 more pledged since.
“We were always hopeful that we would reach that goal, even in a recession,” Kasprowski said. “We just knew that we would have to be patient.”
A long road
The road to a new campus has not been easy.
After Kasprowski joined Cardinal Newman in 2006 as principal, she put together an advisory committee of more than 60 people to look at what it would take to get a new campus.
“When I came in they’d done a good bit of work already,” Kasprowski said. “They had looked at possible locations and had worked with one in particular in Fontaine Business Park, but those were just not meant to be.”
Kasprowski and the committee searched sites and assessed properties for 18 months.
The school owned about 30 acres off Farrow Road and had considered purchasing more for the school site. But that idea was dropped, after the committee determined it wasn’t a viable option. The Farrow Road property is now up for sale.
In 2008, a tract off Alpine Road, near the I-77 and I-20 interchanges, was brought to the committee’s attention.
The school approached owner BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina about selling the property, but the insurance giant declined, saying it wanted to keep the 120-plus acre site for possible expansion.
It was December, and Kasprowski said she left for Christmas break feeling “deflated.”
“(But) I took the opportunity through that break to do a lot of praying about it,” she said, “and in my thinking and my praying, I reasoned it out that what we needed in order to build a campus was approximately 50 acres of land.”
So Kasprowski and the committee went back to BlueCross to ask for a smaller tract – this time adding a pledge along with the offer.
“I promised them we’d be good neighbors,” Kasprowski said. “We told them we would be training their future executives here.”
BlueCross agreed to the deal, even giving Cardinal Newman the freedom to choose the 50-acre tract it would need from the larger parcel. But the school also would need to show BlueCross it could still build on the remaining land, if needed.
“We did all of that,” Kasprowski said.
The school signed an option to buy the property in October 2009, with the capital fundraising campaign starting in spring 2010.
“This was something different for this school,” Kasprowski said. “They had never had a major campaign like this so there was a lot of time and education spent on how to do this.”
The school finished paying for the land in June.
‘What it could be’
More space is something that has been long-needed for those at the school, which has been at its current location in the 4700 block of Forest Drive since 1961 and is now boxed in by commercial and residential development.
To accommodate growth, the school has added four modular classrooms over the years and has students use an adjacent shopping center lot next door for overflow parking. The school does not have tennis courts, softball, baseball or track fields – all venues the school currently rents. The football field doubles as a soccer field. Basketball and other sporting events, often with male and female teams, have to be tightly scheduled.
Terri Boyle, a mother of two Cardinal Newman graduates and an alumna herself, has seen the needs to help educate the school’s seventh- through 12th-graders grow and change.
“I think they are using the same science labs they had when I was there,” said Boyle, who also has served on the advisory committee for eight years. “I’ve watched that campus at Forest Drive bust at the seams, so I know what it is and what it could be.”
Boyle, who is an engineer, will begin serving July 1 as president of the advisory committee. She said students and parents are looking forward to more space.
“I’m just ecstatic,” Boyle said. “We need a new everything. Not that a new everything makes a better student, but it certainly helps with what they’re trying to learn. We want to provide a facility that can have more students and be able to compete with other schools.”
A “new everything” will entail more classrooms, five fully equipped science labs, two computer centers, visual arts classrooms. In addition, the campus will feature athletic fields and facilities that will wrap around Windsor Lake. Privately owned, the lake is not part of the 50-acre campus, but the school will overlook the lake, offering future Cardinal Newman students a decidedly more scenic view. The school is using Columbia firms JHS Architecture and Chao Engineering on design plans.
The estimated cost for the project, which includes the property, could run from $18 million to $20 million, Kasprowski said, but that could change depending on the cost of construction.
The school soon will begin submitting permits and plans to Richland County, with preliminary work, including clearing land and installing roads, beginning soon.
“I’m thinking it’s a minimum of six or seven months out,” Kasprowski said. No date has been determined for the start of construction on the actual facilities.
As for the current facilities on Forest Drive?
“We are working through our real estate attorney on how best to market the property for sale,” Kasprowski said. “We’ve already started the process, but we’ll be putting together a plan to submit to the diocese on that as well.”
Money from the sale of the current site – along a portion of Forest Drive where available space is at a premium – will go toward building the new school.
The new campus will be good news not only for Cardinal Newman, the oldest private school in the Midlands, but feeder schools such as St. Joseph’s, St. Martin De Pores, St. John Neumann and St. Peter’s.
“The four principals in those schools and the pastors of the parishes have been outstanding in their support (of us),” Kasprowski said. “So they’re excited.”
As for when students and alumni might step foot into the new school? That will depend on how the next round of fundraising goes and the sale of the Forest Drive property, Kasprowski said.
“I’d like it to happen tomorrow,” she said. “But every piece needs to fall into place. We’ve been patient and methodical with each step, and it has paid off.”