Friday, May 26, 2023
Marlene Quaroni - Florida Catholic
Photography: MARLENE QUARONI | FC
NORTH MIAMI BEACH | In the past, St. Lawrence School students could only play pickup basketball games in the church parking lot, using a portable basketball hoop. Intramural games with other Catholic elementary schools weren’t possible. Now, that has changed.
“We’ve waited a long time to have a regulation basketball court,” said former principal Dian Hyatt, who taught at the school for 40 years and retired last year. Her years of service and leadership at the school led to dedicating the court in her name, May 16, 2023.
The 200-student school and church, in the Ojus area of North Miami Beach, are the closest Catholic facilities to the heavily populated Aventura area. The campus lies just north of Greynolds Park. In March 2019, Archbishop Thomas Wenski dedicated a new rectory to replace the old rundown rectory. The old rectory has been renovated and now serves as a school cafeteria and chapel.
“Father Cletus Omode, our pastor, has been very energetic and welcoming. He’s been a vibrant force in getting things done,” said Hyatt.
“Some people ask if our church and school are new,” said Father Omode. “I tell them, no, St. Lawrence parish was established in 1956.”
“Our parish and school enrollment is growing and we are putting more emphasis on our facilities, and trying to make it more visible,” said Stephanie Paguaga, the current school principal. “We have other projects on our list in order to create a top-notch campus, such as impact windows. We put security cameras in place, gates around the school and hired a security guard.”
Archbishop Wenski, who blessed and inaugurated the court by sprinkling it with holy water and making a basket on his second try, said that sports is an important part of a Catholic education.
“Maybe there’s a new LeBron James among you,” he said. “Did you know that he went to a Catholic high school in Ohio?”
Jim Rigg, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, called the new basketball court, which also serves as a volleyball court, a wonderful accomplishment.
“This is a state-of-the-art basketball-volleyball court,” he said.
The court cost about $160,000, which came from donations, said Ana Maria Jara, church business manager.
“It features a rubberized anti-slip surface,” she said. “Electric blue on the inside and celestial blue on the borders where St. Lawrence Catholic School is inscribed. Volleyball posts are outside of the basketball court. We planted four small oak trees which will create a lot of shade and are planning to have a canopy over the court in the future. And, we added bleachers for spectators.”
Principal Paguaga said that the school will definitely have a basketball team in the next school year and play in the All Catholic Conference of Catholic primary schools. In the past, St. Lawrence School has had a girls volleyball team and boys flag football team playing in the ACC.
Seventh grader Matthew Tavera, 13, who has attended St. Lawrence School since kindergarten, said he has waited a long time for a basketball court.
“I’m looking forward to being on the team, having a St. Lawrence School Lions uniform and representing my school in the league,” he said.