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Central Catholic to Add STEM Academic Building

Ground was broken Wednesday on a four-story academic building at Central Catholic High School in Oakland that will be devoted exclusively to STEM—science, technology, engineering and math.

According to Brother Bob Schaefer, Central’s principal, the facility will include state of the art labs for traditional sciences with a focus on the “T” and “E” in STEM.  “We’re going to have an entire area of the building that’s dedicated to those kind of pre-engineering and computer science and particularly opportunities for the students to develop some courses with the robotics technology.”

He says they began a “curricular reflection” on what they saw to be the needs of students.  “We had very strong science and math, but we realized in the engineering and technology part of STEM we needed to expand,” Schaefer says.  “In looking at the courses we were able to offer with the facilities that we had we very really at our limit. The expansion [of the curriculum] would really be in the area of computer science courses as a discipline in and of itself and some pre-engineering opportunities for the students.”

Schaefer says the region itself will benefit from the enhanced learning opportunities for Central students.  “75 percent of our graduates remain in the Pittsburgh area.  In this particular area of southwestern Pennsylvania we know that some of the emerging workforce needs are in the area of technology and computer science and some engineering, so our graduates over the years have made an impact on the region and will continue to do so.”

The STEM focus fits well with Central’s arts and humanities curriculum which Schaefer calls their “core.”

“The kids in the musical program and musical theater and the arts program, we have no intention of ignoring that in any way,” Schaefer says.  “We would lose our Catholic identity in a lot of ways if we were to just focus on the STEM.  We think that in the best sense we already integrate that (the arts) in everything we do.”

The 30-thousand square foot STEM building will cost $12 million.  To help pay for the facility, the school launched Wednesday a $27 million capital campaign which includes $10 million to bolster the school’s endowment to provide tuition assistance; and five million for renovations to the 87-year old main building. “Within nine months to a year, we hope to reach our goal,” Schaefer said.

He added there are no plans to increase enrollment which is “at capacity” at 870 students.