Works Begins on Expansion at Xaverian

August 18, 2013 : The Boston Globe, by Michele Morgan Bolton

WESTWOOD — Construction has begun on a major renovation and improvement plan at Xaverian Brothers High School, a multiphased project to add new classrooms, wellness facilities, turf and other fields, as well as a pedestrian walkway and parking for all students.

But perhaps the biggest news, officials at the sprawling 50-year-old Clapboardtree Street campus said, is the addition, beginning in 2014, of a seventh-grade class at the all-boys college-preparatory school and, the year after, of both seventh- and eighth-grade students.

“We are all so very excited about this project,” said board of trustees president Rick Spillane, a member of the school's class of 1968. “And we are looking forward to kicking off our next 50 years in Westwood.”

The school recently announced it has received a $40 million tax-exempt bond from MassDevelopment, the state's finance and economic development authority. Funds will pay for the new work at the high school and also to refinance some existing debt from construction projects in the late 1990s, Spillane said.

Boston Private Bank & Trust Co. has purchased the low-cost bond, according to MassDevelopment officials.

Xaverian's 35-acre campus in Westwood serves 875 students in grades 9 to 12 from more than 70 communities in Eastern Massachusetts. It is well recognized for its highly educated faculty, academic resources, and sports programs, Spillane said.

The school originally opened in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood in 1926, and moved to its current location in 1963. While some improvements were made several decades ago, including a library and technology building, the new plan includes a 32,500-square-foot scholastic and wellness center and a new classroom wing with science labs.

Renovations will also include work on the existing gym, the addition of a pedestrian plaza to connect the football field and the wellness center, and other improvements to athletic facilities, including two new baseball fields, officials said.

Varsity fields will be replaced with synthetic turf, and the two new grade levels will be housed in the renovated gym once work there is completed, they said.

MassDevelopment president and chief executive officer Marty Jones said she is pleased to be able to leverage low-cost financing so Xaverian has the capability to create new facilities to support its plans for the new academic program.

“Seventh- and eighth-grade boys can soon attend the school, and these facilities will benefit all Xaverian students inside and outside the classroom,” Jones said.

The school's headmaster, Brother Daniel Skala, described the new program for seventh- and eighth-graders as the result of a persistent demand from parents for a high-quality education for their younger boys.

He said the new program will not only prepare them for high school studies, but will also imbue them with the advantages of Xaverian's school culture, which has always emphasized excellence.

Skala said the school's focus is on working to build enduring relationships, providing personal attention to each student, and caring for the development of the whole person, something that will be of great value to the younger students as they take their places in the new classes.

At the same time, he said, the academic enhancements that come with the new facilities will offer upperclassmen an edge on more advanced courses and electives, fulfilling a goal to enhance the school's academic and extra-curricular programs, while providing new opportunities for more students.

“These initiatives build on the success and the momentum of the dynamic community spirit which is carrying Xaverian forward,” Skala said. “They require courage, commitment, and collaboration, and I am confident that we will continue to be a leader in Catholic education.”

Spillane said there is no doubt about that, describing Skala as one of the premier leaders in the state's Catholic education community.

“We are blessed with great students and parents and great leaders like Brother Dan,'' Spillane said.

As a member of Xaverian's second graduating class, Spillane said, it always amazes him to walk into the school to see how it and the boys who attend it have changed.

What hasn't changed is the school's emphasis on character education, which he said was as much a priority then as it is now.

“You can't build a building that teaches values,” he said, because that type of learning is intrinsic to the school community's philosophy. But you can add on to a school to advance what that philosophy espouses, he said:

“And that has always been a big part of what we are doing.”