In a move to “significantly expand enrollment,” Fontbonne University is buying the recently shuttered John F. Kennedy High School in western St. Louis County to be a new home for the Catholic University’s athletics and continuing education.
Leaders of Fontbonne and the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced the transfer of ownership of the Manchester-based property at a news conference Monday morning. A price on the property sale was not disclosed.
“When it was announced last September that Kennedy High School was closing, we immediately let it be known that we were eager for such an opportunity to expand academic and athletic initiatives in the growing west county area,” Fontbonne University President Michael Pressimone said.
Fontbonne, opened in 1923, is tucked between the Washington University and Concordia Seminary campuses in Clayton. Fontbonne has about 1,100 students.
Right now, that small campus doesn’t have space for student-athletes to train or play home games, forcing the college to rent space elsewhere. Students are sometimes unable to make practices because of conflicting class times, she said. The 23 acres at the old JFK school will be clad in the college’s purple color and Griffin logo.
“Anytime you don’t have a home, it’s very challenging,” said Fontbonne athletic director Maria Buckel. “When we bring recruits we want to be able to see Fontbonne Griffins basically all over the facilities.”
Officials at Fontbonne will overhaul the grounds of the school, and install artificial playing surfaces. The buildings need less work, so the school will be home initially to adult and continuing education courses, a growing facet of higher education. Academic services for athletes may be offered as well.
“This expansion will allow Fontbonne to serve our dear neighbors to the west,” Pressimone said. “We know we can be as much of a valuable community partner in Manchester as we are with our dear friends and neighbors in Clayton.”
Fontbonne plans to begin work on the new site in the summer of 2018. Adult and continuing education classes will start in the fall of that year. The athletic fields are expected to be finished for the 2019-2020 academic year.
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