Virginia Nowakowski: New school building is a fresh start on future

"How do you open these?"

Everywhere, seniors were turning their locks in frustration, slapping, kicking and cajoling their lockers to open. It's not exactly a scenario you might expect, even on the first day of the year. Seniors are the top dogs, right? If they "own" the school, they ought to know everything about it. Well, for the Lourdes High School class of 2014, that might be a little difficult.

On Aug. 27, Lourdes students attended class for the first time at the new location on 19th Street Northwest. Bright sunshine streamed down on cars driving up to deposit sleepy teens, all directed by handwritten signs.

Principal O'Toole stood front and center, greeting students as they arrived. For a senior such as myself, the moment was surreal. I could tell that fellow classmates felt the same way, judging from their dazed expressions when they beheld their new "home."

Outfitted with an academic, athletic and fine arts wing, the new Lourdes is substantially larger than its downtown predecessor. Ample green space, multiple parking lots, working kitchens, and an enormous auditorium are just a handful of the numerous advantages that make the new Lourdes a veritable paradise for staff and students alike.


A feeling of openness lingers about the school, with its wide hallways, natural lighting and spacious classrooms providing a sharp contrast to the cramped, halogen-lit spaces encountered in some areas of the old Lourdes.

Did I mention the air-conditioning? With the blazing sun beating down and 90-degree heat, students and staff expressed immeasurable gratitude for the timing of the school's move. Experiencing similar temperatures in the old stone structure would have been unbearable.

While students seemed to have no trouble locating their state-of-the-art lunchroom in the cool atmosphere, finding their classes was a whole different story. Along with a fresh layout, Lourdes also hired many new staff members, sending some teenagers into a frenzy as they searched for the rooms of teachers they had never met.

In nearly every class, someone walked in late, pleading ignorance of their destination, or befuddlement at the time changes in the modular schedule. "I feel like a freshman all over again," sighed one of my senior classmates.

Thankfully, most of the Lourdes traditions we came to know our freshman year have remained. Mr. Glass still works out modular schedules for every grade, allowing us to have more free time to complete assignments. In the athletic office, Mr. Peters continues to oversee sports events. Even the tradition of spending office mods with teachers is present after a two-year hiatus at the old building. However, the administration has taken advantage of the move to make a few tweaks to Lourdes' standards.

This year, homerooms were eliminated. Instead of meeting in an assigned homeroom on Tuesday morning, students went straight to their first classes at 7:50 a.m. No bells rang until the end of mod six, when the school gathered for its first Convocation.

What is Convocation? You might think of it as a 15-minute period of fellowship. The student body uses this time for prayer, pledge, announcements and short presentations. Sara Hobday, student council president, presided at our first get-together, informing us about the procedure for future Convocations.

"Guys, this will be what we make it," she told the students seated before her. "If we think of it as dull and boring, it will be dull and boring. So let's get creative and have fun!"


In truth, her advice couldn't be more to the point. Unruly lockers and confusing layouts aside, we are truly honored to finally use the gift 1,600 donors helped to build.

As seniors, we may not know everything, but we're certainly going to have fun figuring out all the nuances of our new school as we continue, in the words of the school's construction fundraising slogan, "Build Our Future!"

Virginia Nowakoski is a senior at Lourdes High School. To respond to an opinion column, send an email to

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