December 26, 2014
It's not often that damage to a structure and subsequent insurance claim become a blessing, but that's exactly what ended up happening at St. Joseph's parish in Mandan.
Back in June 2009, the parish school's subfloor was damaged by a torrential rain event. Water seepage caused a major crack in the first floor of the school and daycare creating quite a hazard and unsightly blemish in one of the main traffic flow areas. Insurance claim funds in the amount of $115,000 were secured to cover the cost to replace the floor. But that sparked the idea to "think big" in terms of a much-needed enhancement project for the school building that was built in 19xx.
Father Shane Campbell, who has been pastor at St. Joe's since July 2011, said replacement of the floor was a wonderful opportunity to go forward with more projects.
"If we're tearing up the floor, we figured it was perfect timing to look at all the other projects we had in mind," Father Shane said. "The crews were already here and we were in a position to leverage the insurance money."
It was the combination of the insurance funds, a few larger donations, parish savings, and most importantly the generous contributions of the parishioners toward the capital campaign that made it possible to complete $800,000 in renovations to the parish's school and daycare. Remarkably, no loans or financing was needed for the project that began on May 27 and finished August xx, just xxx days ahead of the beginning of the new school year.
Father Shane acknowledged that the parishioners have been asked to dig deep into their pockets in recent years, but that didn't shake his confidence in their generosity.
"They've been through a lot in the last 10 years including what Father Schumacher started with the extensive renovation to the church interior. But they've always been extremely generous and forward thinking toward the school and daycare as well," he said. "And with this most recent campaign, they responded like they always have anytime there's a need when it comes to the brick and mortar."
The list of renovations had the largest impact on the daycare, which is a thriving and critically important part of the parish and school. It's a top-rated facility with a terrific reputation that utilizes the entire first floor of the school building. Without the income from the daycare, the parish would not be able to financially support the school, which educates students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade.
In addition to replacing the damaged school main-floor hallway, the two major renovations at the top of the list were constructing public bathrooms and updating the daycare bathrooms. The underlying idea was to make better use of space when considering other renovations, specifically the new nap room and daycare storage. That location was the old boys and girls locker rooms and custodial storage/archive room/school paper storage.
Other renovations included: separate reading, speech, learning disabilities and resource classroom; custodial storage room; cafeteria storage and washroom/restroom for kitchen staff; fire suppression system for the entire first floor (as required by code); new daycare floor tile, ceiling tile and lighting; asbestos abatement in old daycare flooring and main ceiling pipe; sewer pipe lining; and adding security systems to the school and daycare entrances.
There was a strong desire to give the daycare the dedicated space it desperately needed. Many areas in the building were serving several purposes. For example, the existing daycare nap room was also a meeting room for the parish and outside organizations, confirmation classroom, bridal dressing room and more. It was sort of an all-purpose room. Another room across the hall is shared with the daycare for activities during the day, youth faith formation on Wednesday evenings, and parish music ministry on the weekends. As Father Shane stated early on in the process in an explanation to parishioners, "As you can see, we are popping at the seams!"
While the renovations were "nothing flashy" as Father Shane noted it was more about bringing health to the building. However, early on in the work, he assured the parishioners, school parents and members of the public who utilize the daycare that the finished product would have that "WOW factor."
Certainly that "WOW factor" is not lost on the two people who see the most impact of the renovation, school principal Valerie Vogel and daycare director Heather Swanson.
They give the credit the success of the project to volunteers who helped them move in and out to prepare for the renovation and the patience of the daycare families in dealing with the challenges that came with accommodating the construction. But mostly, they give thanks to their staff for sticking it out.
"My favorite phrase of the summer was, 'Just wait until it's done. It will all be worth it'," said Vogel. She helped her teachers and school staff to rearrange classrooms on the second floor to house the daycare moving in just as the school year ended.
Swanson and the daycare staff made use of every bit of space they could as they relocated upstairs. The school classrooms served as daycare rooms. The gymnasium and hallways became the lunchroom, breakfast area and indoor activity area for the daycare.
Since access to the kitchen and cafeteria on the first floor was cut off by the construction, food had to be brought in. The school's custodian wore many hats to help out including food transport and serving of the daycare children.
With the project wrapping up so close to the start of the school year, Vogel said her teachers had only a couple days to get their classrooms ready once the daycare moved back to the lower level.
Even though, it was inconvenient for many, both Swanson and Vogel said it was well worth the extra efforts over the busy summer months. The children and staff have really benefitted from the renovations. The new nap room and the updates to the bathrooms are what everyone has come to appreciate most.
"Funny thing is that we even miss the big crack in the floor," Swanson joked. "Some of our staff members would use it as a marker of sorts for the kids to know where to line up in the hallway."
What started from a crack in the floor five years ago has ended up in a beautiful renovation project for generations of daycare and school children to come at St. Joseph's.