Eighth-graders Lukas Garcia and Daniel Kim had a lot of great things to say about their new middle school building at St. Joseph's Catholic School.
There's a science lab for classes now, the new furniture is comfortable and technology is better coordinated in the building. But it's the library, and its air conditioning unit, that really wowed them.
"In the other one we had to crack open the door (to get a breeze)," said Lukas, 13.
While students have been in the building for several weeks, the new 17,000-square-foot building formally was dedicated Thursday when Bishop Joseph Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima visited and blessed it.
The ceremony was the culmination of more than a decade of planning, fundraising and construction by the school and its associated parish. Students, church and school officials and parents said its success is a testament to strength of Catholic education.
"There is a desire to anchor academics on Catholic education heritage," Tyson said.
Construction on the building began in August 2011. It cost about $1.2 million to build combined with renovation projects for the old middle school building, as well as the current grade school building, said Principal Ralph LeCompte. The money was collected through fundraisers and regular contributions by parishioners and parents.
The building is the primary home for the 100 students in the school's sixth through eighth grades, but also houses the school's administration offices, library, computer lab and art and music rooms.
Tyson, who previously served as the head of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle before taking the bishop's chair in Yakima, said there is a clear demand for Catholic education, which St. Joseph's new building illustrates.
"We're the largest educator in the world," he told the Herald. "It comes from a belief that faith and reason walk together."
Betsy Kohan said she has had five children go through St. Joseph's in 19 years. Her youngest child, 14-year-old David, participated in Thursday's dedication as the outgoing school president.
"(David) says the best thing about it is the lockers are bigger," she said.
Kohan's son, like the school's other eighth-graders, only will get to be in the building for about six weeks before graduating but Kohan said it still has been worth it to send him and her other children to St. Joseph's.
"While the building is wonderful and we love the new facilities, it's really about the faith and education," she said.
Lukas and Daniel, 14, said the new space is great but so was being a part of the school to this day.
"It was great watching it be built," Daniel said.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org