Saint Bernard celebrates latest school renovation

Montville — Seven years ago, Saint Bernard School alumna Maureen Donohue Hendricks visited her old high school and found herself unsatisfied by what she saw.

Hendricks is a successful and wealthy graduate who, Saint Bernard School Headmaster Donald Macrino noted, "attributed some of her success to the school, as it provided her with a great academic experience." Yet, on her visit, Macrino said, "she felt badly about the school's condition."

Indeed, the school had undergone few renovations since 1966, when it was built, so Hendricks, a member of the Class of 1972, proposed the Hendricks Challenge — a five-year plan starting in 2014 in which each consecutive year she would donate $200,000 if donors and the Diocese of Norwich could match her contribution.

After the five years, the school had raised $3 million, which, as per the terms set by Hendricks, would be spent renovating and modernizing its facilities.

The school recently announced completion of the gymnasium's renovation — one of many projects that the school had undertaken. 

Kim Hodges, director of high school admissions and marketing, said, "The first thing we did were the bathrooms. Our students really wanted those done first." With a chuckle, Macrino added, "a tip of our hat to the clientele."

Outlining the slew of renovations, Macrino noted, "The second thing we did, after the bathrooms, was the technical infrastructure — we needed to make it wireless." Additional renovations included the school's library, classrooms, media center, chemistry lab and security system, which has been updated to include a host of new security cameras.

"These renovations really freshened the place up," Macrino said.

Heading a quick tour, Macrino and Hodges highlighted the effects these new renovations have on student life. The library, decked with colorful chairs and adjustable standing desks, offer students a warm environment to relax and study. The classrooms, outfitted with new ceiling tiles, flooring and an interactive smart projector, aid the students' ability to engage in virtual academic learning.

The computer lab, connected to the library, grants students access to the school's partnership with the Library of Congress, bursting with academic texts.

The gymnasium, equipped with new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant retractable bleachers — emblazoned with the word SAINTS — and a newly refurbished wooden floor — with the Saint Bernard mascot, the eponymous dog, at its center — enhances the students' athletic experience.

"There's a lot that has been done," Macrino said.

Tying these renovations to Saint Bernard's emphasis on religion, Macrino arrives at the school's renovated auditorium. Capable of seating 800 people, he noted, "We hold Mass once a month here. Whether students be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic or atheist, we show by example the good things that can come from universal tenets — who can argue with kindness, compassion and generosity?"

The Hendricks Challenge officially ended on June 30, but the school is still accepting donations for future renovations. The donations, however, won't be matched. 

Discussing plans for the school, Macrino said, "the emphasis will be to restore the athletics and drive the Saint Bernard's fund." Indeed, in the past year alone, Hodges noted, the financial aid fund gave "close to $900,000 to families." However, Hodges added, the school is hoping to increase the fund to help more students who want to attend.

"We're a community here," Macrino noted. "There's a camaraderie here that exists among Saint Bernard students and graduates that is quite remarkable." He continued, "There's a motto we say here that describes us quite well: 'Once a Saint, always a Saint.'"

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