Since the Light of Christ Catholic Schools was established in 2012, enrollment at the five schools – St. Mary’s Grade School, Saint Anne School, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Elementary, Light of Christ 7th & 8th Grade Academy and St. Mary’s Central High School – has grown rapidly. Over the past four years, Light of Christ Catholic Schools has added 16 sections of elementary students alone. Overall, in the past four years, enrollment has increased over 20 percent with a projected 1,256 students for the 2016 – 2017 school year. That means the entire system will be operating at 107 percent of capacity, necessitating the addition of six portable classrooms.
And there’s more growth anticipated. Officials are projecting enrollment to rise by another 11.7 percent over the next three years and a cumulative enrollment growth of 19.6 percent over the next five years. With that much more growth coming, the Light of Christ Catholic Schools recently announced plans to expand.
Dr. Ron and Ruth Knutson have donated 48 acres of land just north of 57th Avenue and east of Washington Street that will become the new home of St. Mary’s Central High School (pictured). In addition to the plans to build a new high school, the current St. Mary’s Central High School and Light of Christ 7th & 8th Grade Academy on Second Street will be converted into a full middle school academy. Additional upgrades have been made and will continue to be made to the other three elementary schools at St. Mary’s Grade School, Saint Anne School and Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Elementary.
In order to fund this expansion, the Light of Christ Catholic Schools have initiated the Keep the Promise campaign chaired by Mr. Vern Dosch. In addition to the land donation from the Knutson family, the Diocese of Bismarck recently donated $3 million and several other donors have come forward with significant contributions. Provided certain fundraising benchmarks can be achieved, groundbreaking on the new St. Mary’s Central High School is planned for the fall of 2017 with classes starting there in the fall of 2019.
Brian Ritter is the President/CEO of the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association