‘Start of something special’ — Work begins on new Catholic school

Groundbreaking held for St. Joan of Arc Catholic School

Children gather for a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, May 29, for the new St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in Bettendorf. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

Father Ken Kuntz, administrator for the Diocese of Davenport, helped welcome the construction of the new St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in Bettendorf on Wednesday, May 29, with a story from his boyhood.

He told a crowd of more than 100 at a groundbreaking ceremony that the event reminded him of when he was a boy in southern Iowa and a new school was built. That project cost $70,000. “I think things have changed a little,” he said as the crowd laughed because this new school project is expected to cost many millions of dollars.

Stories, prayers, words of thanks and cheers from schoolchildren were some of the highlights of Wednesday’s ceremony to welcome the construction of the new school. The groundbreaking ceremony and blessing of the earth took place at the site of the future school – near the intersection of Criswell Street and Hopewell Avenue in northern Bettendorf,  just east of the TBK Bank Sports Complex.

The event attracted officials that included partners in the project: Russell, Bray Architects, and Blackhawk Bank & Trust; St. Joan of Arc Foundation; City of Bettendorf leaders; and students from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School who were delivered to the ceremony on five school buses. (Our Lady of Lourdes and St. John Vianney are partnering to become St. Joan of Arc Catholic School and Church.) 

If all goes according to plan, the new school will be ready for students in the fall of 2025. In fact, during Wednesday’s ceremonies a work crew was busy moving dirt and building the foundation for part of the school as officials gave speeches.

“This is the start of something special. … Imagine what this will look like a year from now. A year from now, all this equipment will be gone and a school will be here,” said Katie Selden, principal of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.

Here are some of the features of the new school:

  • 79,990 square feet.
  • Scheduled to be complete in time for fall classes in 2025.
  • Capacity for 630 students.
  • Total cost of the school project – for the land and the building – is $44.2 million, according to the St. Joan of Arc Foundation website.
  • Features will include: two classrooms per grade level with collaborative space; dedicated STEM and arts classrooms; high school-rate gym that will seat 360 people; day care and preschool program with a dedicated drop-off area; state-of-the-art security; playground; student commons featuring an attached chapel.

During the ceremony, Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher called the school plan a “great collaborative effort” to get the project moving. He also addressed the many schoolchildren at the ceremony. “We’re very excited for you to have a new school building where you can learn,” the mayor added.

Others also praised the many people who have worked for years to make the plan a reality. In fact, Caitlyn Russell, president of Russell, said the journey to build the new school started three decades ago. Others praised the business partners that helped with the project.

“Most recently, we teamed up with Blackhawk Bank (& Trust) to secure the financing we need, which is further proof along with the foundations going in now that this project is real. It feels so good to be on schedule for the fall of 2025 opening,” Daryl Schloz, project manager, said in a news release before Wednesday’s events.

One of the big reasons the new school is needed is because more people in the community see the value of Catholic schools and have been enrolling their children in the schools, leaders say. During the Wednesday ceremony, Ms. Selden told the crowd that in the past 15 months, enrollment at Our Lady of Lourdes has grown by 50%.

Also, the new school will serve a growing part of the Quad Cities – northern Bettendorf.

“The Bettendorf population center is moving north and east, where (the) population is expected to grow by 23% by 2035. The Diocese of Davenport projects, that based on these statistics, 2,000 more Catholics will live in Bettendorf by 2035,  with the majority moving to northeast Bettendorf near the St. Joan of Arc Catholic School and the new Catholic Church that will be built following completion of the school.,” according to the St. Joan of Arc Foundation website.

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