BEMIDJI -- Even as students rushed through the halls of St. Philip’s Catholic School on Thursday for their first day back to class, construction crews were working outside to expand the footprint of the building.

In addition to adding four classrooms, the project includes a number of other changes that will add more room for the growing school as well as add an element of security. The construction started in May, and the work is expected to be complete by Christmas.

“We have seen tremendous growth the last couple years,” St. Philip’s Catholic School Principal Jana Norgaard said. “Most of our classes have a waiting list now.”

In fact, the number of students streaming through the doors of St. Philip’s has grown by more than 100 in just a handful of years. This year, the private Catholic school has 341 students who range from pre-K through eighth grade. In 2014, the school had 232 students.

Norgaard said they’ve also added a second section to the seventh grade, meaning that eighth grade is the only class that has just one section. They’ve also hired two additional teachers, and are in the process of looking for a new technology teacher.

On Thursday, Norgaard was one of the staff members out in the entryway welcoming the students back and directing traffic as everyone scurried about to their new rooms while sporting their brightly colored backpacks.

Twelve-year old Ella Klovstad is relatively new to St. Philip's, but she says she has enjoyed the change of academic scenery.

“I came last year,” Klovstad, who is in the seventh grade, said about St. Philip's. “It’s way better because you’re learning about God and stuff.”

Norgaard said starting a couple days before Labor Day allows them to ease into the school year a little more slowly.

Overall, the expansion project will add 5,600 square feet to the facility. The cost of the project is $1.4 million. The new rooms will be for the third and fourth grades. In addition to those, the school is expanding its music room. The art room will now be in the space that used to be an office area.

In addition to making more room for the growing student body, the changes also will add a little more security to the school building.

“(For) school security, we have moved our school office down on the main level,” Norgaard said. “Parents can now enter the office, and then they will come around to the new part of the building.”