Upgraded facilities, technology and academics lead Andrean into the future
Seated on new, modern-style lounge chairs in the Andrean High School lobby, students (from left) Kiera Markham, Selhyen Park and Danielle Moynihan chat at the Merrillville school on Aug. 23. AHS is completing a wide range of facilities enhancements from computer updates to football stadium repairs. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)
by MARLENE A. ZLOZA
Northwest Indiana Catholic
MERRILLVILLE – Staff and students have returned to a ‘new and improved’ Andrean High School thanks to projects completed during the summer and others continuing this fall.
“Seeking a bold future of hope, stability and excellence,” said Bishop Donald J. Hying in a June 27 letter to Andrean parents, staff and supporters, a task force appointed earlier this year implemented initiatives to modernize physical facilities, upgrade technology and enhance the academic curriculum. The bishop approved new capital expenditures “including the repair of the main gym roof, updating heating units in some classrooms, a new boiler, and IT system upgrades that include new servers, infrastructure and computer equipment, to be competitive and seek excellence for Andrean.”
The Diocese of Gary has also matched the first $100,000 donation made to Andrean through a matching grant program offering up to $500,000 to each of the three diocesan high schools “to incentivize new monetary donations to capital campaigns, scholarship funds and operating expenses,” noted the bishop.
Dr. Tony Bonta, the bishop’s chief of staff who heads the task force and is serving as Andrean’s acting administrator through this academic year, said there is one simple reason for all of the efforts. “The students are worth it,” said the 1983 AHS graduate who has spent more than 25 years in education.
Recognizing there have been challenges in bringing the school up to modern standards, Dr. Bonta said, “There is a strong commitment” not only by students, faculty and staff, but also by parents, alumni and the community.
“That comes from the impact Andrean has had on so many people. . .I am who I am because of the foundation I got here. It is a faith-based Catholic environment that provides resources, opportunities and connections.”
Staffing additions include Director of Facilities Molly Perez; Director of Technology Kelly Murphy; a full-time nurse practitioner, Beth Callender, R.N.; resource coordinator Margi DeMass, helping students on the developmental level with tutoring assistance and Individualized Education Plans; life skills coordinator Janice Reynolds, providing assistance to college-bound students; theology teachers Adam Anton, Brian Brown and Natalie Ryan, all with a theology background; and part-time alumni coordinator Kathy Yurechko, who Dr. Bonta said has “a special heart for Andrean” and is updating alumni files as well as assisting with class res.
Perez, an AHS alumni and parent, supervised 10 “hard-working students” hired this summer to give the physical plant a facelift. “We did an electrostatic painting of all the lockers in the entire building, the best way to paint metal lockers,” she explained, “painted hallways and other high-traffic areas, and took down the visitors’ bleachers at the football field in preparation for their replacement.”
Other projects included the removal and replacement of asphalt on the circle drive and all access roads; the replacement of mini-blinds with black-out shades in all classroom windows; a complete renovation of the biology lab (which continues); new lobby furniture; and “a lot of landscaping, new plantings, and furniture to make the courtyard useable for outdoor classes and gatherings,” Perez said.
The first phase of the heating system upgrade should be completed this month, added Perez, while the guidance office received a much-needed remodeling.
Murphy said two stages of technology network enhancements had already been approved and infrastructure installed when he joined the staff July 5, and he implemented changes that included new network switches and servers, new cabling to most classrooms and a new firewall – all aimed at improving “the stability and speed of our network.”
With new information kiosks being hung throughout the building, students and staff will see photos of activities, announcements and upcoming events displayed on computer screens, added Murphy, and his focus has turned to “working with teachers and students on using technology to increase student achievement.”
He created a website, andreanhs.com/technology, which offers sections for teachers, students and parents. “We’ve dealt with technology from a troubleshooting aspect (in the past),” noted Perez.
“Now it’s time to help our teachers and students use technology to enhance the instructional process,” added Murphy.
Communications Manager Brendan Ryan, with AHS for about a year, is working with a Hammond advertising firm “that helped us create a marketing campaign,” said Ryan. Featuring the theme “An Educational Environment You Can Believe In,” billboards are targeting Hobart, Lowell, St. John, Gary and Crown Point – among the top communities Andrean draws from - and event posters and admissions materials are being updated. Newsletters will be produced more frequently, added Ryan, while a new ‘Update for Parents’ will be issued 2 to 3 Mondays a month.
“What’s new is that we are focusing on parishes, where people are already used to a Catholic environment, and connecting people with events they can come to at Andrean, not only ‘meet and greets,’ but theater, band concerts and sporting events,” Ryan said. “That way they can not only hear about how great we are, but see it.”
Dr. Bonta said he believes Andrean is heading in the right direction. “We are honoring the legacy of those who founded Andrean High School and sustained it all those early years. . .now the torch has passed to us to build the foundation for the next 50-60 years, offering a bold future of hope for Catholic education and formation.”
Chris Lemmer, of Kentucky-based Southern Trades, Inc. bleacher specialists, installs an aluminum kick plate to the 'home' side stands at the Andrean High School football stadium in Merrillville on Aug. 23. AHS is completing a wide range of facilities enhancements including installation of furnishings, computer updates, hall painting and athletic facilities upgrades. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)
New computer server equipment is pictured at Andrean High School in Merrillville on Aug. 23. AHS is completing a wide range of facilities enhancements including computer updates, installation of furnishings, hall painting and football stadium repairs. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)