SIOUX CITY | Bishop Heelan High School has been a part of Mindy Oberle’s life for more than 30 years.
The 1986 Heelan graduate has taught math at the building for the last 27 years, so the beginning steps toward a new academic wing are a little bittersweet.
“There’s a lot of tradition and good memories here,” she said.
Last week, groundwork began on a new, $10 million academic wing of Heelan High School, across Grandview Boulevard. It will replace the existing high school, which has served the district since 1949.
Principal Chris Bork said the new wing will contain classrooms, administration offices, a counseling center and chaplain offices.
Aside from a new facility, Bork said the building will contain significant upgrades, including faster connections for technology, new lecture and science labs and learning centers for students to conduct group work.
Air conditioning and increased Americans with Disabilities Act access are added bonuses.
Bork said the costs of inefficiencies with energy, expenses associated with the boiler system and plumbing are major reasons for the push towards a new building.
“The new facility will serve us much better and well into the future,” he said.
The new wing will be connected to west side Bishop Heelan’s Fine Arts Building, which opened in 2014.
The $15 million Fine Arts facility was Phase I of the new facility project. At 37,600 square feet, the fine building contains a 600-seat auditorium for plays, concerts and musicals, practice areas and an open music room ready for jazz and concert bands.
Bork said, when completed, the complex will serve as a visual reminder of Heelan’s presence in the city.
“We’re going to have a building that will be very visually appealing and a statement that the Catholic high school is here to stay,” he said. “We’re going to be here for a number of more years serving the community of Sioux City.”
Oberle said she’s thrilled about the upgrades associated with the new building. Currently, students who have classes and programs in the Fine Arts Building have to cross the busy street from the high school. She said this will only lead to increased safety of the students.
“It’ll be nice to have all the kids together again,” she said.
When all is said and done, the price tag on the new high school, along with the fine arts building, will be approximately $25 million. Construction has been fueled by donations and support from the community and grant opportunities.
Oberle said the generosity of the community and attentiveness to ensure students continue to have a top-level education in a new facility is overwhelming.
“We’re just very, very grateful to the community and alumni for the support they’ve shown us,” she said. “It’s taken a long time, but we appreciate the investment they’ve made in us.”
And while the new building will be a blessing, she said it’s what’s inside the building that matters the most.
“We are doing a good job with what we have right now, but the new facilities will make us better equipped to continue to do what we’re doing,” she said.
The new wing is scheduled to open in 2018. Currently, Bork said, it is unclear what the plans are for the existing building.