Dorm construction put on hold
A year ago, JC was nearly ready to open St. Joseph Hall to male international students to provide alternate options for housing other than living with host families. That is, until the Archdiocese determined that the dorms were a liability issue. Now, after Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Barbara Edmondson visited the dorms herself, JC has a lot of work to do this year to make them livable.
“[St. Joseph Hall] needed updating. We had to make it more secure. Changes needed to be made, so we had to get that approval from the Archdiocese, and then they became very concerned about their own liability with having students live on campus…This is new territory for everybody,” Principal Madelyn Ball said.
Edmondson’s visit helped JC have a better perspective of what the Archdiocese wants to see in regards to the dorms. “[Edmondson] had never seen where we wanted to [house the students], and she gave us some further information about what they would need from us before they could give the approval,” Ball said.
In general, Edmondson was impressed with the facilities. “She was so impressed with how clean [St. Joseph Hall] was for how old it was and what good shape it’s in,” Ball said.
Last year, after the Archdiocese stopped the renovation of the old convent into dorms for international students, the international student body for the next school year had already been accepted. This put Ball and the administration in a predicament, because “there were quite a few of those students who didn’t want to live with a host family, they had requested a dorm,” Ball said.
According to Ball, the administration, along with Coordinator of the International Students Program Sandi Seiler, had to “scramble” to find host families for the students who had already committed to living in the dorms. Seiler declined to comment.
“We were very lucky to have enough host families this year,” President Richard O’Hara said. The administration hopes to avoid this last minute hassle and worry next year by having the dorms ready.
According to Ball, though, there were one or two students who decided not to come to JC because the dorms were not ready.
Right now, according to Associate Director of Enrollment Kim Brueggemann, there are 41 international students enrolled, and Ball says that she is “pretty comfortable with that number.”
Next year, the number will be almost the same. According to O’Hara, there are currently only three senior international students.
If the Archdiocese gives its approval for the dorms, 14 or 15 students will be able to be housed there, but there are steps that JC must take to get to that point.
Aside from researching and planning for the liability associated with students staying in the dorms, JC must also craft a plan for the residential life of the students in the dorms.
One decision that the administration has made is that the dorm will be housing for males only. “”For some reason, it’s easier to find host families for girls than it is for boys,” Ball said.
Since that has been established, the administration now needs to fine-tune the plan for the young men who will be living in the dorms. “Mainly they need a real ‘dorm handbook.’ There would be one for the students and one for the dorm parents so that we can guarantee that the students living in the dorm would have just as rich of an experience as the international students living with host families,” Ball said.
The international students would need an itinerary of things to do outside of staying on campus, like going to the mall every week or going on field trips to Washington D.C. or Philadelphia once a month, Ball said.
In order to have 14 or 15 students living in a dormitory for months away from their home country, there would need to be a supervisor in the dorms to retain order and organize these sorts of excursions.
“We need, ideally, a couple that would live in the dorm. They would be the dorm parents and could always drive one of our buses to get the kids places. But then you also have to have an alternate person. You can’t expect these people to work seven days a week forever,” Ball said.
Ball feels that the most effective way to appoint dorm parents is by choosing people who could easily familiarize themselves with the students. “I personally would like the idea of a teacher that could live in the dorms. Someone that really knows the kids,” she said.
O’Hara agrees. “Ideally, we would want it to be a faculty member, someone who knows [the international students], knows what we’re about, and is familiar with our mission statement,” he said.
Last year, the administration had some teachers in mind, but since the initiation of the dorms was delayed the dorm parent prospects are still up in the air.
In order for improvements to start being made to St. Joseph Hall, JC requires approval from the Archdiocese to work on the dorms. According to Ball, the Archdiocese would have to give their approval “probably by Christmas in order for us to do all that we need to do in the convent before kids come in August for the 2013-2014 school year.”
According to O’Hara, “we would love to have approval if we’ve done our homework by the end of the calendar year at the latest. The architecture design’s already done, even though it might need to be tweaked. We would start renovations almost immediately.”
Brianna Glase is the Online Chief for the Patriot and jcpatriot.com