On Sept. 5, Our Lady of Lourdes School in Bethesda will be a little bit larger as it welcomes its students back for a new school year.

Over the summer, work was being done on the renovation of a storage space to become a new middle school classroom and a small conference room. Patricia McGann, the school’s principal, said the additional classroom will allow them to split up their eighth grade class for literature and math, providing smaller class sizes of 15 instead of 30.

“We’re an inclusive school, so we have kids with special needs in all of our classes, and it makes it a lot easier to have small class sizes,” she said.

The school hopes to use the conference room to assist with the inclusion program as well, so teaching assistants can bring students there if they need a break. In addition, the room will serve as a good location for parent teacher conferences.

Meanwhile, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish will soon complete a project that has been in progress since about four years ago, when they had the idea to enclose the porch surrounding the church and expand their bathrooms.

Before this project, the church only had a small vestibule and no additional gathering space for the parish community. The aim of this project is to create a “nice place to meet and greet and connect and reflect,” said Msgr. Edward Filardi, the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The project became more complicated than they anticipated, requiring work on air conditioning, heating, electricity, water run-off, permits, and fundraising to pay for it. But they finally began the project in June of 2016, and it is now getting close to completion.

When it is finished, Msgr. Edward Filardi hopes to use it as a communal space for gatherings like coffee and donuts after Mass and Bible studies during the week. Currently, they hold coffee and donuts outside in the summer, but are unable to do so in the winter. Msgr. Filardi said when they do have the gathering it is a great way for him to meet new people whom he otherwise wouldn’t.

An additional benefit of the new space is that it will enclose the original vestibule, where families would take their kids during Mass. While the room used to get very cold in the winter, Msgr. Filardi said the new addition will help with that problem and allow them to “use the original vestibule for a better purpose.”

“It is a place where people can connect. Especially in the downtown Bethesda area, there is a nice mix of different people, different ages,” said Msgr. Filardi. “…We can use it build up the communal and spiritual life of the parish.”