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SIOUX CITY -- In early January, Bishop Heelan Catholic High School, students and staff returned to classes in a more modern, expansive school than the one they left at the Christmas holiday break.

Built at a cost of $10 million, the academic wing at 1231 Grandview Blvd. replaces the former school next door on Douglas Streets that housed the Catholic high school for seven decades.

The new fine arts wing, which opened in 2014, connects to the wing of academic classes.

Students raved about the new wing when it opened on Jan. 5. Heelan spokeswoman Janet Flanagan said the word of mouth about the new building has been positive among people from the broader Heelan community.

“We held a wonderful open house Jan. 28, where we welcomed over 500 elementary school parents, grandparents, former teachers and young and old alumni. People were thrilled with the fresh appearance, classroom technology and the special artwork displayed in our new school. They gave us so many compliments," Flanagan said.

Teachers got to give input as the new Heelan plans were put together.  Some had never taught in a new building over their instructional careers.

The new academic wing, built by a team led by general contractor W.A. Klinger of Sioux City, includes classrooms, administration offices, a counseling center and chaplain offices in more than 55,000 square feet. In addition, it contains significant upgrades in technology connections, plus lecture and science labs and learning centers where students can conduct group work.

There are 29 classrooms -- 15 upstairs and 14 on the main level. In some places, large crosses have been prominently placed into the architecture.

The design features wide hallways and spaces illuminated by 977 light fixtures. More than 600 hallway lockers for the 500-pupil school shine with a blue sheen.

"The fine arts section and student commons all flow beautifully into our new classroom hallways," Flanagan said.

"We're thrilled with the building. It is such an upgrade," Heelan Principal Chris Bork added.

Students agree with such positive sentiments.

Seniors Jake Brown and Megan Janssen said some students felt angst on acclimating themselves to a new layout, no matter how aesthetically pleasing. But Brown and Janssen said they and others quickly embraced the new Heelan High.

“Everybody has absolutely loved the new school, not only because of the way it looks, but also because of the new technology in the classrooms. You can tell the teachers have a renewed excitement and the students a more focused in class," said John Paul Keane, Heelan student council president.

The new school is part of a wider facilities rebirth at Heelan, courtesy of a combined $25 million that Heelan supporters privately raised.

In 2015, Heelan opened the Father Patrick Walsh Administration Offices at 50 13th St. The new administrative offices were named for the longtime retired Heelan president.

School officials also hope to raise an additional $3 to $4 million for a new gymnasium that will adjoin the southwest side of the new school. The new gym is expected to open by the 2018-19 year winter sports season, Bork said. It will replace Heelan's aging, smaller gym, which Crusader fans affectionately call "The Pit."

The old high school, where more than 10,000 students have been educated since opening in 1949, likely will be razed.

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County and education reporter

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