When heavy rains last April seeped into the basement of the St. Clement Catholic Elementary School, school principal Lori Schuckenbrock said she thought she was in for just a routine clean-up.
“The sump pump could not keep up, so we just had all of this water damage,” Schuckenbrock said during an interview on Friday. “When the insurance adjuster came to check it out, they found mold behind the walls. Then they realized that mold was practically everywhere. We knew we had asbestos tile, so that got us thinking that it all had to go.”
Currently, the basement of St. Clement is a stark reminder of what it used to be.
Gone are the brightly-colored posters from the school’s music room.
The school’s trophy case has been pushed to a far corner.
The school’s library has been reduced to one-third of the books that used to be in the collection, because the books also had mold and water damage.
Schuckenbrock said she and other members of the school’s staff are not focusing on the past and on what has been lost. Instead, she and St. Clement Catholic Church Priest Jason Doke are busy readying themselves for the construction of a new library, new restroom facilities, a new kitchen, a new cafeteria, a new science classroom, a new music classroom, and more.
In addition to the new spaces, the basement has had a new water proofing system installed that will prevent flooding and a return of mold-related problems.
According to Doke, the renovations carry a price-tag of more than $250,000. The school’s insurance will cover a considerable portion of the cost. The remaining expenses will be paid using a loan from the regional diocese and funds donated by parishioners.
“Right now, we are just pinching pennies here and there,” Doke said. “We are just trying to save enough money. We are also hoping for a successful annual dinner and auction, which is Saturday. While the auction is something that we do every year, this year is definitely more important.”
The Annual Dinner and Auction will be held on Saturday, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and dinner being served at 7:30. The benefit auction will immediately follow.
The two school and church officials met with the Times on Friday and offered the newspaper a behind-the-scenes glance at the efforts remodel the lower level of the local Catholic school.
“For me, it is us giving our students educational opportunities that they have never had before,” Schuckenbrock said regarding the new science laboratory. “It allows us to expand our curriculum to include more experimentation and more hands-on learning experiences.”
According to Schuckenbrock, the current layout of the classrooms on the main floor is not conducive to large hands-on projects.
“Having the science lab, allows us to take the kids out of the classroom and give them project-based learning opportunities,” Schuckenbrock said. “We will have extra classrooms for music and a new library.”
Both Doke and Schuckenbrock say they anticipate the construction work being completed within the academic year, however students will likely not be able to use the space until the beginning of the next academic year.