First there was the fire at Woodbury Union Church and then the burst heating pipe at St. Kevin School.
“Fire, floods; what’s next, the locusts and the frogs?” said Father Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Church, last week when asked when the school could reopen. Such humor goes a long way in easing the pressure on the staff and parents of the church and parish school.
The short answer to the school is that classes will resume this Wednesday, but they won’t be at St. Kevin, which is undergoing extensive renovations from the steaming hot water that infiltrated ceiling tiles, wallboards and left many carpets and some books sodden.
St. Kevin School will reopen at Randall Holden School, which closed in June as part of the Warwick district’s consolidation, and operate from there for an indefinite period. Estimates are that it could be through January before St. Kevin School is ready to have all 245 pre-K through 8th grade students back. An open house will be held today from 4 to 6 p.m. so parents can do a walk through Randall Holden and see the facilities.
It’s a tight schedule, as teachers were moving materials from St. Kevin Monday and will be working today to set things up.
Initially, David Irving, St. Kevin principal, hoped to reopen this Monday after having school closed for a week. It became apparent on Thursday, however, as crews removed ceiling tiles and wallboard that such a schedule was unrealistic. As the diocese and community groups responded to the crisis, Father Marciano and Irving considered the options, including shared space with Hendricken, the Knights of Columbus and the Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs. It was the city and the Warwick School Department that came up with what Father Marciano describes as a solution better than dreamed possible. Mayor Joseph Solomon offered the city’s assistance, as did Superintendent Philip Thornton. Father Marciano and the school staff visited vacant city buildings and Randall Holden was a perfect fit.
By Friday, the race was on to roll out the red carpet for St. Kevin. School Department building and grounds crews under the direction of Kevin Oliver were reinstalling paper towel dispensers and hand sanitizers, checking out the heat, cutting the grass and cleaning the school yards and moving desks and chairs that were stored in several rooms. Warwick Public Schools even saw fit to fill up the school’s tank with heating oil.
“During their difficult time we’d like to help them out in any way that we can,” said Superintendent Philip Thornton on Monday. “It’s the right thing to do.”
They worked through Saturday so that with the help of Warwick firefighters St. Kevin teachers and administrators could move boxes, which the city provided, of records and materials they would need to Randall Holden.
On Saturday afternoon the plan was outlined to St. Kevin parents at a meeting held in the church. And on Sunday, Father Marciano informed the congregation of developments from the pulpit.
Father Marciano said he couldn’t thank Mayor Solomon and the Warwick School Department enough for finding a “solution to our devastating problem.”
He said, “We do not know how long the reconstruction of our school will take, but we want to be sure it is done right and that the building is safe and healthy for our students and faculty to re-enter. In the meantime, we will be at our secondary campus and will continue to be sure that St. Kevin School is simply the best.”
On Saturday, Father Marciano told parents a major consideration in choosing Randall Holden is that it would allow for the entire school to be under one roof rather than splitting out grades that would have had parents with multiple children traveling between locations for morning deliveries and afternoon pickups. Also key is that Randall Holden meets fire codes and has the needed security systems in place.
“It’s in spic and span shape,” he told parents. “The only reason it closed is because they ran out of students.”
But there’s more that persuaded Father Marciano and Irving. Randall Holden has a gym, a cafeteria and a kitchen. The gym has special appeal. St. Kevin School doesn’t have a gym and on rainy days students don’t get to have recess outside. Father Marciano warned parents not to fall too much in love with Randall Holden.
Parents had questions on times of operation, buses and dropoff and pickup locations. CCD classes have been canceled until further notice.
And then there was the question of a chapel and where they would hold prayers. Father Marciano had the answer – the gym.
Particulars of the agreement, such as liability insurance and a rental charge if there is one, have not been released.
Father Marciano said those details would be worked out, but the focus is on reopening a safe school as soon as possible. Because of “built in” extra time during the St. Kevin teaching day, unless there are snow closure days, Irving feels the loss of seven days won’t affect the school calendar.
GETTING READY: Carpenter Joseph Pisaturo was among the school department crew working to prepare Randall Holden School on Friday in preparation of its new role as a temporary home for St. Kevin School.
THE FULL PICTURE: Bishop Thomas Tobin, accompanied by Monsignor Albert Kenney, was given a tour of the water-damaged school by Father Robert Marciano, Principal David Irving, Assistant Principal Dereyth Dwyer and Administrative Assistant Joanne McGrath.
HARD HAT TERRITORY: The tour of school damages included a visit to the second floor where the pipe burst and crews were still removing soggy ceiling tiles.
OUTLINING THE PLAN: Father Robert Marciano and Principal David Irving go over plans to reopen St. Kevin School this Wednesday at the now closed Randall Holden School. The meeting with parents was held Saturday at St. Kevin Church.