Jason Shipely, left, and Scott Clark of Century Steel Erectors install the last beam during the topping out ceremony Friday at the construction site of the new Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry.
By Karen Kane Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The topping out ceremony for the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry marked more than the completion of the steel bone skeleton of the high school that overlooks one of the region's busiest corridors, said Bishop David A. Zubik.
The ceremony, held Friday afternoon beneath blue skies and atop a foundation of gravel and mud, signaled a historic occasion for the diocese -- the completion of the first stage of the first new Catholic high school to be built since 1967.
Calling the event a miracle, Bishop Zubik knelt in the muddy gravel before a white steel beam, which was the last segment of the frame of the new high school. The school will sit on 71 acres on the north side of Route 228 across from St. Kilian Elementary School.
The topping out ceremony featured the bishop signing the steel beam along with some two dozen construction workers just before it was hoisted by a 100-foot boom and set into what will be the stairwell of the building. The ceremony is common in the construction industry and was marked with symbols -- a tree for good luck, a broom for a "clean sweep" -- meaning that no one was injured during the construction of the frame -- and a flag for patriotism.
The construction site was a busy one Friday with giant excavators clawing the ground with their steel buckets.
Much has happened since ground was broken for the project in June. "I can't believe what I'm seeing," Bishop Zubik commented after arriving at the site. He had led the blessing and groundbreaking ceremony in June.
Construction is expected to be completed in January 2014, the bishop said, with classes to begin in August 2014. In the meantime, the current North Catholic High School will continue to operate from its site on Troy Hill, where it's been for 73 years.
It currently has an enrollment of about 200.
Bishop Zubik said he expects the new Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School to be at its 1,000-student capacity, given its location in the bustling Cranberry area where Catholic elementaries are "bursting at their seams." St. Kilian Elementary has a waiting list for students to get in, he said. The diocese has said that about half of the school's current enrollment commutes from the Cranberry area.
The bishop said bank financing is in place for the $71 million project, and fundraising efforts are ongoing and will continue. The diocese in October launched a $125 million fundraising campaign for a variety of projects, including the high school.
Astorino Architects and Engineers designed the facility and the curriculum is being developed by a school education planning commission. The school will have all the latest in educational curriculum, the bishop said, including a science, technology, engineering and math certification program -- known as STEM -- as well as technical education, performing arts and advanced placement classes.
When the new high school opens, the Troy Hill building will be sold, the bishop said Friday.
He said he looks at it as the Troy Hill North Catholic High School "giving birth" to the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School. The bishop called Friday's completion of the building framework a historic moment that reflects the diocese's mission to educate students in the Catholic tradition in an area that's ripe for that service due to demographic changes in the region.
"This is where the students are because of the population growth," he said. "This is clearly a part of the trust Jesus placed in us to carry on the faith."