After five years, archdiocese’s newest school has a permanent home

Austin Catholic purchases Chesterfield Elementary from L’Anse Creuse Schools for $3.175M

Students of Ray Township-based Austin Catholic High School get a tour of the former Chesterfield Elementary School building in New Baltimore, which will become the Catholic school’s new permanent home starting in the fall.

Students of Ray Township-based Austin Catholic High School get a tour of the former Chesterfield Elementary School building in New Baltimore, which will become the Catholic school’s new permanent home starting in the fall.

New Baltimore — The Crusaders have a new base in Macomb County. The Austin Catholic Crusaders, that is.

Austin Catholic High School, now in its fifth year as the second incarnation of the once-Detroit-based Austin Catholic, an Augustinian-run preparatory school that operated from 1951-78, will be moving into L’Anse Creuse Public Schools’ former Chesterfield Elementary School building for the 2016-17 school year.

The $3.175 million purchase of the 54,240-square-foot facility on 23 Mile Road between Fairchild Road and Gratiot Avenue gives Austin Catholic 26 classrooms, a full cafeteria, a gymnasium and 14 acres of land.

“This purchase shows Austin is here to stay,” said principal Janel Coppens. “We have the stability, and we can now build our program. We now have a room for each teacher, a gym, cafeteria, and so much more room for our programs to grow.”

Austin Catholic has been leasing Seifert Elementary from New Haven Schools for the last five years, but the new purchase allows the school, which is expected to have 90 students for the 2016-17 school year, more space to grow.

“Austin Catholic needed a permanent home,” Coppens said. “We were in a leased facility for the last five years, and we were looking at building our own building or purchasing an existing building. This building is only two miles from the proposed site of the school, so we feel it’s the ideal fit.”

Cardinal Adam J. Maida granted Austin Catholic property to potentially build a facility, but with the purchase of the former Chesterfield building, the land will return to the Archdiocese of Detroit.

The negotiations between Austin Catholic and L’Anse Creuse Schools was a smooth process, according to Meg Lope’, a member of the Austin Catholic board of directors.

“It was a very quick, we went to them in December 2015,” Lope’ said. “We’ve been looking for a new school for a long time; obviously we wanted a permanent home. We looked at the Chesterfield building and determined it was suitable.

“We’ve very grateful for the support the Archdiocese of Detroit has given us,” Lope’ said. “They promised further support now and in the future, for which we’re grateful.”

A big advantage of the building was that it is “turn-key ready,” meaning it will be ready for the 2016-17 school year.

Work will be needed to convert the former elementary school into a building suitable for high school students and faculty, including the addition of office space to house the athletic, admissions and advancement offices, as well as space for the deans and assistant principal.

Coppens said the school is already making plans to move in a weight room and build a playable high school gym.

“We’re looking into building a gym or a fieldhouse, whatever is more cost effective on the acres we have,” Coppens said. “The science and technology labs are being renovated, and we have whole wings with lockers being put in. The campus comes with a track and soccer field, and there is an existing baseball diamond that needs to be renovated.”

Along with the purchase, Coppens said Austin Catholic and L’Anse Creuse Schools will enter into agreements to share resources, particularly with Austin Catholic students having access to L’Anse Creuse’s tech center and classes at their building, along with shared services in special education and busing.

“It’s a bit sad to leave (Seifert), it’s been our home for five years,” Coppens said. “There are a lot of memories in that building, but I think everyone can take this deep breath now and look to the future with confidence. We actually know now where we are going to be in the foreseeable future.”