New North Catholic High School takes shape in Cranberry

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Covering 72 acres and costing $72 million, a new high school is rising in Cranberry. The opening of Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School is more than a year away, but the building already is half completed on a hilltop site east of Franklin Road between Route 228 and Mars Crider Road.

North Catholic High School, which is in a 73-year-old building on Troy Hill Road on the North Side, is relocating 20 miles north into a new home with a new name. The school is named for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Bishop David Zubik's predecessor as head of the Pittsburgh Diocese. Cardinal Wuerl now is archbishop of Washington, D.C.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh made the decision to tackle the massive project to attract additional students and upgrade to a more modern building that will encompass 181,000 square feet.

Driving along the highway, mounds of dirt, trailers and cranes are visible from the road. The main structure is in place, but the chapel, which will be one of the focal points of campus, has yet to be built.

Construction vehicles and personnel hustle in the hot July sun to finish the project by mid-January so students will be able to claim their new lockers for the 2014-15 year.

The school and its surrounding practice fields and grounds will include regular school amenities like classrooms, an auditorium, library, cafeteria and athletic facilities, and also a chapel, which will be visible through windows at the end of the school's main hallway.

At the entrance to the school is a bell tower, which will contain bells from a dismantled Pittsburgh church, said Kellie Abbott, principal/CEO of the school. She expects to ring the bells at the beginning and end of each day and for special occasions.

The hallway is shaped like an elbow with academic classes on both sides. One classroom is almost completed and will be used as a demonstration room in the coming weeks. Classrooms have large windows that allow for much natural light. Since the school sits on top of a hill, the windows have views of surrounding fields and neighborhoods.

The library features an open design and is full of windows. It is adjacent to the music rooms. On the opposite side of the hallway is a gym, wrestling room and a fitness center. The gym seats 1,500 and was designed, along with the locker rooms, to be able to host championship games in sports such as basketball and wrestling.

Down the stairs from the main hallway is the cafeteria, which also has large windows. Though the dining area is on a lower level, the school's hillside location affords views overlooking Cranberry.

The cafeteria will be college style she added, meaning that it will allow students more food options than just one standard meal.

There also is a patio next to the cafeteria where students will have the option to eat lunch outdoors.

The school's dimensions will accommodate a population of 1,000 students. Administrators said that they hope to increase enrollment from the approximately 200 students who attend North Catholic.

Administrators hope that by moving closer to the feeder pool of current seventh-graders at surrounding schools, which the dioceses estimates is 1,714 students in Catholic schools and religious education programs, will help boost enrollment.

education - neigh_north

Monica Disare: mdisare@post-gazette.com.


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