By PHIL NOBILE
Donning School of the Holy Child hardhats and shovels, officials from Westchester County and the Town of Harrison joined the school in a groundbreaking ceremony last week to kick-off the start of its many planned expansions.
Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett, Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, Rye City Councilwoman Julie Killian and others joined faculty and students of the private school for girls to formally begin construction on a planned field house and more.
William Hambelton, headmaster of the School of the Holy Child, described the updates as “critically important,” and essential to the vitality of the school.
“Over the years, we have profoundly strengthened our programs and curriculum,” Hambleton said. “I think what these facilities represent is a level of facility that is consistent with the level of program and student success that we are seeing right now, so it really completes the circle for us.”
Plunkett spoke on behalf of County Executive Rob Astorino, who recently announced his candidacy for governor, and was in Buffalo campaigning at the time.
“Holy Child and schools like it are so vital to the county,” Plunkett, who had four daughters graduate from Holy Child, said. “When you see the school building for the future, it’s an important part of making sure the education provided is not only in the classroom, but through the arts and athletics, and overall just well-rounded.”
The expansions focus on expanding athletic and art offerings that the preparatory school provides its student body, which consist of grades 5 through 12. According to Hambleton, the first stage of the updates is to complete the 22,000-square-foot field house—which boasts two full-sized basketball or volleyball courts with bleacher seating; locker rooms for Holy Child students, coaches and visiting teams; weight, training and fitness rooms; and a dance studio—by October of this year.
Also planned are improvements to the school’s Ross field, which, according to Belmont, has allowed for collaboration and community involvement between the town and school in the past.
“We use their fields and courts, and it’s an ongoing relationship where they also use some of our town’s fields,” Belmont said. “With the governor looking for us to consolidate and share services, here’s a perfect example of what we’re trying to do moving towards the future.”
Once the field house is done, the school plans to convert its old gymnasium into a 400-seat theatre, and will include specific space for the school’s drama and dance programs, a full-sized stage, sound and lighting equipment for productions and dressing rooms.
It’s these new additions that will “drive and sustain” the school for years to come, according to Hambleton, who said the school hopes to keep its quaint size, but plan for the future as well.
“We do believe that the new facilities will help drive and sustain enrollment, but we’re not looking to grow dramatically, but strategically in a few specific areas,” the headmaster said. “We do think the new facilities will make us much more competitive in our niche in the independent school world and that it will really drive enrollment in a sustaining way for years to come.”
The School of the Holy Child was established in 1957 after the school bought the St. Walburga’s Academy, which was founded in 1904. It sits on 23 acres off of Westchester Avenue and has an enrollment of 292 students.