Expansion is underway at St. Olaf Catholic School in BountifulJul 07, 2022 01:12PM ● By Tom Haraldsen
Something very exciting is happening for the St. Olaf Catholic School in Bountiful, and really for the community as a whole. Ground has been broken and construction underway on a major $3.6 million expansion of the school located at 1793 South Orchard Drive. While much of that monetary total has been collected, there’s still a need for more donations to complete the project.
When completed, the expansion will add a large multipurpose/dining hall, a full commercial kitchen, four middle school classrooms, new restrooms and in a subsequent phase, new administrative offices. It will allow students to have cafeteria services for the first time in the school’s 62 year history. And all of this comes after a couple of stop-starts in a process that’s been discussed for nearly two decades.
“There was some talk about adding on as far back as 2003, but the conversation really took hold in 2008,” said Simon McFall, principal of St. Olaf. “The genesis was that we were looking at the needs of education, and how we could meet the needs of our parish and the broader Bountiful community.”
St. Olaf is a large part of Bountiful’s history, starting with the parish in the 1940s and the acquisition of 11 acres of property on that corner of Orchard Drive. The shape of 1800 South as it comes down the hill to Orchard was created by the church’s property. It is the only Catholic school in Davis County, but its student body comes from a variety of faiths. Forty percent of the students at St. Olaf are not members of the Catholic Church. The parish’s list of activities and participation in city events is well documented.
McFall wasn’t there in 2008, but he knows that year was particularly challenging for the nation’s economy, and talks for expansion were shuttered over the next couple of years and finally “put to bed” in 2011, he said.
“When I arrived in January of 2018, one of the things I was told about was the Capital Campaign that had been halted, and to see if we could do something about it,” he said. “We talked to a lot of parishioners. My predecessors as principal – JoAnn Emery, Casey Pond and Laurie Jacobs – had all done a great job in helping move the work forward, and we just needed to restart the momentum. So I got to be the person who stood on the shoulders of these giants to relaunch the campaign.”
He said St. Olaf was the only school along the Wasatch Front without a cafeteria.
“It’s 2018, and we can’t cook for our kids, we can’t serve food for our kids, and students have been eating in their classrooms. That was something administrators were focused on back in 2010. So in October 2019, we began soliciting bids and selected a team that winter. In conjunction with our contractors, we decided the launch date for the project would be March 20, 2020.”
And then, on March 13, 2020, the world began to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The school was closed, like all other schools in the state, but organizers decided to march ahead as best they could.
“We were able to do some things that we couldn’t have otherwise except for the interruption in the classrooms,” McFall said. “We actually got about 60 percent more work done in a short period of time than we would have – the value of this prep work was awesome. We were closed from March to May, but we finished all of our ground work – about $1 million of site improvements – by July 2020.”
Students also returned after two months of closure, and the school’s enrollment has continued to climb. As the school reopened, so did the Capital Campaign, which has been helped by “some great donors,” McFall said. “The city and community have been very supportive, as has the Bountiful Interfaith Council. They’ve been a great help as we continue our fundraising efforts for the expansion.”
“I’m very excited,” said St. Olaf Catholic Church Pastor, the Rev. Andrzej Skryzpiec, who goes by Father Andrew to everyone in the community. “The school gives such vitality to the parish, as well as the opportunity for the community to come together – people of all faiths. Yes, we promote our Catholic faith but we aren’t coercing anyone to become a Catholic. We share the values that many in the community share, and it’s a great opportunity to grow.”
“We hope the residents in Bountiful and throughout Davis County realize the importance and the value of St. Olaf School,” said Ron Burt, a leader of Bountiful Interfaith Council, which includes St. Olaf, Flourish Grace Church, The First Baptist Church, The Bridge Community, Episcopal Church of the Resurrection and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We’re encouraging everyone to donate and help St. Olaf in this great cause.”
Donors can contribute through online platforms like PayPal, but they can also send checks made out to St. Olaf Catholic School, 1793 South Orchard Drive, Bountiful, UT 84010, memo: Capital Campaign. λ