Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School nears completion

| Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 10:51 p.m.

The new Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry will drench students in natural light.

Darren Lloyd, the school's chief designer, said natural light was used as a building element when developing the design, calling it “just as important as concrete and brick.”

Designers and builders showed off the $70 million, 185,000-square-foot building on Wednesday. The school, which had been located in Troy Hill since 1939, is set to open at its new location in the fall.

Classrooms reflect the desire for light and openness with windows on the inner hallways and on the outer walls. The windows allow more “transparency” in the classrooms, something students requested from Astorino, the Downtown-based design and architecture firm tasked with designing and engineering the building, said Mike Arnold, chief facilities officer for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

“It feels more like you're on a college campus than high school,” said Arnold.

Finishing touches remain, such as placing books in the library, desks in some classrooms and landscaping.

The school has room to grow as it's expected to. When the school year ended in June at the Troy Hill campus, enrollment was 202, said Ann Rodgers, spokeswoman for the diocese.

Enrollment for the upcoming school year is at 262 and grows each day, she said. The school was built to serve up to 1,000 students.

The school will be the first Catholic high school in Butler County. The diocese has closed or merged dozens of schools in the past few years because of shrinking enrollment, but in picking Cranberry, officials saw a need. Cranberry has about 30,000 residents and is expected to have 50,000 by 2030, according to census projections.

“The real beauty is about to begin when the students come in to begin learning,” said Arnold.

Astorino held workshops with current and future students to see what they wanted in a school, Arnold said.

Many design elements, such as natural light, came out of those meetings.

The hallways are painted in warm, earthy greens and browns. Reclaimed wood from six barns in Pennsylvania and Maryland lines some of the walls in the lobby and main corridor.

The facility is expected to achieve LEED for Schools 2009 Silver Certification for its use of sustainable materials and environmentally and energy-efficient building design, Arnold said.

One of the biggest differences in the new school from the old is the auditorium and gymnasium, which shared space in Troy Hill. In Cranberry, there is a 1,300-seat gym and a 950-seat auditorium that sit across from each other at the school's main entrance, which Arnold said officials hope to open for community use.

“It's going to be used all the time, without question,” he said.

The school is named for Donald Wuerl, former Pittsburgh bishop, now a cardinal who heads the archdiocese of Washington.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or

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