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Oakland Catholic High School for girls dedicates remodeled St. Joan of Arc Building

| Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 11:59 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Bishop David Zubic blesses the newly renovated St. Joan of Arc Building at Oakland Catholic High School on Tuesday, April 10. 2013. The building has a 175-seat theater and renovated classrooms, and eventually will include a television and radio studio.

For more than a century, the St. Joan of Arc Building in Oakland has prepared thousands of young women for life beyond its doors. Now it is thinking bigger.

“We want these girls to be global citizens,“ said Maureen Mursteller, principal of Oakland Catholic High School, where the building is located.

Oakland Catholic on Tuesday dedicated the newly remodeled Joan of Arc Building, a project that school officials say better prepares their graduates for the world.

Work on the century-old, five-story building began in June and finished in February. It included converting a gym into a 175-seat theater, renovating music, art and other classrooms, adding Smart Board interactive whiteboards and installing new heating, air conditioning and plumbing.

Senior Olivia DiMaio, 18, of Sewickley called the changes “amazing.”

The next phase of work is to convert a room into a television and radio studio.

“To be able to maximize (students') potential, it's helpful to have a top-quality environment for them,” said Katherine Freyvogel, school president.

The renovations weren't limited to the new, they preserved the old, such as stained glass windows, terra cotta religious decorations and terrazzo and wooden floors.

The work enhanced access to the building with the installation of an elevator and a lift in the theater to help students get on and off stage.

“There's always somebody on crutches,” said Marley Shovlin, 16, a sophomore from Forest Hills, referring to sports injuries.

To ready students for a global environment, the school has added Mandarin as a fifth language, trained all teachers through the World Affairs Council, added world studies to the social studies curriculum and used Smart Boards to allow students to Skype with students in Australia, Ireland and South America.

The school is in the silent phase of a $5 million fundraising campaign, approaching foundations and the school's board members. A public appeal will follow.

With the closing of Mt. Alvernia High School in Millvale two years ago, Oakland Catholic became the only Catholic girls high school in the six-county Pittsburgh diocese.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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