ShareThis Page

Hampton-based Aquinas Academy plans expansion

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Aquinas Academy is outgrowing its space in Hampton, so the Catholic school plans to construct a 16,000-square-foot building that will be used mostly by high school students. It will be connected to the current school on West Hardies Road. The project will cost $4.2 million and include two state-of-the art science labs. This is an architectural rendering of the planned building.

Aquinas Academy is bursting at the seams.

“Aquinas has been blessed with exceptional growth in its enrollment over the last five years, so we are just completely out of room for our current enrollment,” said Peter Blume, co-founder of the Hampton-based Catholic school and president of its board of directors.

To accommodate its enrollment growth, Aquinas plans to nearly double its academic space by constructing a 16,000-square-foot building with new classrooms, mostly for high school students, and two state-of-the-art science labs on the academy's West Hardies Road campus, he said.

Founded in Hampton in 1996, the school started with 13 students, he said. There are 360 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Construction on the $4.2 million expansion project will start in July, if Aquinas receives approval from Hampton officials, Blume said. The project would be done by June 2014, he said.

Aquinas has submitted a revised site plan to the township for approval, and a decision likely will be made June 26, said Martin Orban, Hampton's land use administrator.

Blume partly attributes Aquinas' enrollment growth to its reputation for high academic performance by students.

“We have a really great head of school and faculty and, you know, that's what parents put a great value on,” he said.

Aquinas' goal is to eventually have 600 students enrolled, Blume said.

In 2002, Aquinas bought its 13-acre property, which included four buildings, from St. Catherine of Sweden Roman Catholic Church. Before that, the academy had been renting space from the church.

More than half of the academy's current space is in a building for kindergarten through eighth grades, and the rest of the space is split between three other buildings, Blume said. The high school is on one floor of the chapel.

Aquinas is an independent, private school, but its religious curriculum is subject to the approval of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Blume said. Tuition ranges from $1,150 a year for 3-year-olds in pre-kindergarten to $9,031 for high school students.

The construction project will be paid for with a capital campaign that raised about $4 million, some of which is in the form of pledges, over the last year and a half, Blume said.

Aquinas plans to borrow $2.7 million in tax-exempt revenue notes through the McCandless Industrial Development Authority to use for building and equipping the new building; the interim financing is needed because some of the pledges were for payments over a three-year period, Blume said.

The development authority approved the note issuance May 28, said Dean Richardson, the authority's solicitor. A public hearing on the issuance will take place Friday, but an elected member of the town of McCandless still must approve the note issuance, he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.