Bishop gets a peek at multiple renovation projects at O’Hara
Cardinal O’Hara High School’s slogan, seen throughout the grounds, is “You Belong Here.” But there’s a second theme they’re also living by over the next few months: “Pardon Our Dust.”
Several renovation projects are in progress on the Town of Tonawanda campus. Bishop Michael W. Fisher was welcomed to O’Hara Oct. 25 to get a firsthand look at works in progress.
“Inside and outside on our campus, we’re trying to improve the aesthetics and the comfort level here within the building,” said Joleen Dimitroff, principal at O’Hara. “We want each student to take great pride of coming into their school, and so we think that it’s very important that when they come in, they see a clean and a modernized facility here.”
Many changes within the school have already been completed and are functioning. Most notably this fall is the enrollment of the first students into the St. Margaret of Castello program, O’Hara’s new special education classes. It is named for a patron saint of the disabled, a professed member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic who was canonized by Pope Francis in 2021.
During his showing of the St. Margaret Scholars program, Bishop Fisher was introduced to Meredith, one of the students. She had just completed recording a segment for a promotional video that will be used to seek financial support for the program. The bishop, on the spot, contributed to the video with his own segment.
Elsewhere in the school, a double classroom space now serves as an indoor archery range, used as part of the school’s physical fitness programs. There is also a working e-sports room to accommodate a new program.
Bishop Fisher was also shown the school’s theater, which includes updated lighting technology, new wood flooring on stage, and a Baldwin grand piano that Dimitroff says was recently restored thanks to numerous private donors.
The cost of the numerous projects is estimated at $1.6 million, all funded by private donations.
“That kind of captures the essence of the culture here,” she said. “Everyone, you know, they hear there’s a need and (ask) what can we do to fix it? You know, make it nice for the kids.”
Works still in progress include new restrooms on the first floor, a new library, and the restoration of an industrial kitchen and rebuilding a culinary program.
“Prior to my coming here, I guess through Covid, it shut down. So we’re looking to breathe some new life into it,” said Dimitroff, who is in her second year as principal. “That’s my mission for next year, it’s to do that.”
Bishop Fisher glanced at several posters featuring culinary-related quotes. His takeaway?
“Life’s too short to eat bad food,” said the bishop.
Outdoors, work continues on a separate $1 million renovation to O’Hara’s athletic fields. That project is being funded by a private donation from a 1972 graduate. New natural surfaces are expected to be ready by spring for the baseball and softball diamonds, while the field where football and soccer are played will be replaced by a new grass field. Surrounding that field will be a new running track.
Dimitroff explains that some of their teams have had to play games elsewhere due to deteriorating field conditions, and it isn’t fair to their students.
“So many of them are athletes. Some of them not only are in three sports, but they’re in four sports,” Dimitroff said. “Some of the boys and girls do volleyball and soccer during the same season. They work very, very hard at being scholar-athletes here, so we’re really, really excited to up the caliber of fields that they’re going to be able to play on moving forward, because they really deserve it.”
Bishop Fisher was impressed by what he saw, and the vision the school has for modernizing itself.
“I’ll have to come back to see when you get everything in place,” Bishop Fisher said. “Maybe we can have a blessing.”
Listen to Michael Mroziak reporting.