St. Vincent Pallotti High School is about to grow by 20 percent, but not in terms of enrollment.
The Pallotti Early Learning Center, adjacent to the south end of the school with a playground along Montgomery Street, will be moving into the new St. Mary of the Mills Parish Center, which will avail the high school of the early learning space, about 20 percent of the area of the current high school.
The Sister Lucy Lobby, which connected the school's two main buildings, has recently been torn down to make way for a new, three-story lobby, which will be the new main entrance to the school and facilitate access between the areas. The lobby is named for a Pallottine Sister who taught at the school.
St. Vincent Pallotti Principal Jeff Palumbo said the move is not an indicator that the school's enrollment is growing, but rather an opportunity to better serve the current student population.
"Everybody is very excited just to have something new going in and showing people that we're moving forward and planning for the future," he said.
The last major renovation project at Pallotti was in 2004, which included a new athletic center and office space on the north end of the school.
The space which housed the early learning center for children in pre kindergarten and kindergarten will now be dedicated to the school's arts programs, opening up more room for the band, chorus, theater arts and visual arts departments, according to Palumbo.
With the additional room, the school will be launching the Pallotti Arts Academy, a program for students who would like an added focus on their discipline.
"They'll still complete our high school and college prep curriculum, but they'll have a stronger focus on arts," he said.
Originally built in 1958, the Sister Lucy Lobby had served as the main entrance to Pallotti until 2004 when the school's current entrance was configured. The lobby was also used to host school gatherings and other events throughout the years.
When completed, the new Sister Lucy Lobby will again be the school's main entrance, according to Palumbo.
Tom Downs, a Laurel attorney and chairman of the school's Board of Directors, called the project a major undertaking, but said the board is excited to provide students with more space and to launch the Pallotti Arts Academy.
"This is a nice face lift for the school — not that the other lobby was an eyesore," he said.
Construction on the new lobby began March 30 with demolition of the existing lobby. The new lobby is expected to be finished Aug. 1 before students return to school on Aug. 24.
The lobby project is expected to cost around $1.3 million, Palumbo said.
For the 2014-15 school year, Pallotti has 495 students enrolled in grades 9-12.