Construction set to begin this month for new, $30 million Lawrence Catholic Academy

LAWRENCE, Mass. — Plans are underway to build a new, $30 million Lawrence Catholic Academy.

According to the academy’s trustees, construction is set to begin this month for a new school building and recreation center to educate 475 children in pre-kindergarten through Grade 8 who attend Lawrence Catholic Academy.

“This will be the first entirely new-construction urban Catholic school to be built in the Archdiocese of Boston in more than half a century,” the trustees said in a statement. The total cost for the project is $30 million.

A groundbreaking ceremony took place on Monday, at the corner of Parker and Bailey Streets.

The new facilities will replace the three existing buildings constructed between 1906 and 1926, officials said. Students in each grade will enjoy two fully modern school classrooms and increased space will be provided for the school’s Early Childhood Education program.

The school will expand its enrollment capacity to 590 students, officials said.

“The educational needs in Lawrence are profound. LCA has experienced increased enrollment every year for several years, and our graduates are moving on to excellent high school educations,” Rosemary Jeans, chairperson of Lawrence Catholic Academy’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “The big problem we have at LCA is that our aging facilities are woefully inadequate to provide the superb education our children deserve in 2024 and moving forward.”

The new school building will be constructed on space available on the current campus and will not require closure of the existing buildings until the new school is opened, officials said. Once the new school is occupied, the old school buildings will be demolished, and a new recreational center will be constructed to provide a full gymnasium and auditorium space.

Construction is scheduled to begin this month, with the new school building completed in July of 2025 and the new recreation center completed in May of 2026.

Lee Kennedy Company will serve as the general contractor for all construction.

“In one of the economically poorest communities in New England, Lawrence Catholic Academy has already secured $28 million in gifts and pledges toward its $30 million capital goal,” the school’s trustees said in their statement. “LCA announced in December 2023 its final push to achieve full funding of the remaining $2 million needed to build the new facilities. Remarkably, eighteen of the current gifts and pledges are of $1 million or more.”

“The high level of major philanthropic investment in Lawrence Catholic Academy from donors of significant means is an example of the entrepreneurial philanthropic work done in Lawrence by Father Paul B. O’Brien, President of LCA and Pastor of Saint Patrick Parish in Lawrence,” the trustees said.

O’Brien previously spearheaded a major fundraising drive to build and operate the Cor Unum Meal Center, which opened in 2006 and serves free breakfast and lunch daily to needy people in Lawrence. The program serves 250,000 meals per year.

Of the 18 gifts and pledges of $1 million or more received by Lawrence Catholic Academy, the largest is a $3 million grant from the Yawkey Foundation, officials said.

For too long, the school’s students have been housed in facilities that are inadequate for 21st century education, officials said.

“A new LCA will give us dramatic new resources for continuing to close the academic achievement gap for children in Lawrence,” O’Brien said. “At a time of positive awakening to issues of equity in American society, the leaders of LCA believe its students deserve to be offered excellent, up-to-date educational facilities so that residents of Lawrence can see their children grow and thrive.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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