The Sacred Heart Foundation has received a $2.5 million grant from the Engelstad Family Foundation to fund a 10,865-square-foot addition to the Sacred Heart School in East Grand Forks.

The addition, to be built onto the school's southeast side, will house six classrooms and a common area, said Dennis DeMers, executive director of the Sacred Heart Foundation.

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The grant requires the Sacred Heart Foundation to raise $500,000 in matching funds, he said.

Construction of the $3 million, single-story addition will begin this spring. The facility should be completed and ready for the start of classes in fall 2019, DeMers said.

The need for the additional space stems from the school's increasing enrollment, which is 438 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12, said Carl Adolphson, president of Sacred Heart School, which also provides day care services.

In the past five years, the school's enrollment has grown by about 100 students, with most of the growth occurring in elementary grades, Adolphson said.

The building expansion will allow the school to offer two sections of each grade, from kindergarten to sixth grade.

Grades four, five and six will be housed in the new addition which will occupy space in what is now the school's playground. Another area for the playground, with new equipment, is planned.

In addition to classroom space, the expansion will include a common area for collaborative teaching and other school functions, as well as for parish activities, Adolphson said.

The Icon Architectural Group of Grand Forks is designing the structure.

The $2.5 million grant for the building addition is the latest in a series of donations Sacred Heart School has received from the Engelstad Family Foundation, DeMers said.

In 2015, the Engelstad foundation, of Las Vegas, donated $500,000 to the Sacred Heart Foundation's "New Day Campaign," which was aimed primarily at stabilizing and increasing student enrollment at Sacred Heart School.

In the past, the foundation also donated a major gift for the school's library, said Adolphson.

Betty Engelstad, matriarch of the Engelstad Family and widow of Ralph Engelstad, is a 1950 graduate of Sacred Heart School, where she attended as Betty Stocker, DeMers said.

Several of her family members live in this area.

"We are just so happy to be the recipient of this grant," DeMers said. "There just aren't words enough to express our thanks to the Engelstad Family Foundation.

"People are ecstatic, and a little scared. It means that we have to find that match" of $500,000.

"We're in the beginning stages of raising that match," said DeMers, "and, with luck, we'll have it done by the end of December 2018."

"We are very optimistic we can do it, but it's going to take a lot of hard work," he said. "We'll be looking to the local community and outside the community."

Corporations, other foundations, families, individuals and alumni will be invited to contribute to the match, DeMers said. "We'll cut a wide swath."

The addition will be joined to the $17 million, 112,800-square-foot building that was built in 1998 after the school buildings constructed in 1952 and 1958 were destroyed by the Flood of '97.

The proposed addition is one result of long-range planning by members of the school's National Advisory Council, a group of successful alumni who gathered a few years ago to take an in-depth look at the school's academic identity; character and spiritual life; marketing and recruitment; finance, tuition and development, and future building, infrastructure and forecast needs, Adolphson said.

The council launched the New Day Campaign, which raised $6 million to expand academic offerings and educational opportunities, Adolphson said.

The campaign also provided tuition assistance for families and increased compensation and professional development opportunities for its staff.

"We want to stay in that 40 to 50 students per grade range," Adolphson said, because of the capacity of the lunchroom, gymnasium, classroom and other physical spaces.

"We don't want to be a large school," he said. "We want to be a really good, smaller Catholic school."