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First week down: Grafsgaard named THS chaplain, students adapting to separate buildings

Press Photos by Katherine Grandstrand Trinity High School students have class in the Pine Room in the basement of St. Joseph’s Catholic. 1 / 2
Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Rev. Thomas Grafsgaard addresses the students of Trinity High School after the announcement was made that he will be the school chaplain as of July 1. Above, 2 / 2

Trinity High School students gathered Friday afternoon at Queen of Peace Catholic Church for the third big announcement in two weeks.

Their new dean of students, Rev. Kregg Hochhalter, introduced the school’s new chaplain, Rev. Thomas Grafsgaard, at an assembly. The meeting concluded the school’s first week of classes after a fire, allegedly set by former principal Thomas Sander on March 2, left THS unusable.

“It’s very reassuring to me as the quote-unquote old chaplain welcomes in the new chaplain,” Hochhalter said.

Grafsgaard taught religion at Bishop Ryan Catholic School in Minot before Bishop David Kagan reassigned him as chaplain of Trinity High School.

“We are committed, and we assure you that your intellectual and your spiritual and your human formation in Christ will continue to be the highest quality, as it’s always been,” Grafsgaard said.

The young priest will officially take his post July 1 for next school year, but plans to move to Dickinson sooner.

“I hope to be with you towards the end of the school year,” Grafsgaard said.

Grafsgaard graduated in 2004 from St. Mary Central High School in Bismarck. It was Hochhalter who gave Grafsgaard his first tour of a seminary, Hochhalter explained to the assembly.

“There’s no better time than now, Father Grafsgaard, to be a Titan,” said Hochhalter, a 2003 Trinity High School graduate. “As of today, you’re a Titan.”

‘A big change’

The assembled students are spread across four buildings — seventh- and eighth-graders at Prairie Rose Elementary, freshmen at Berg Elementary, sophomores at Hagen Junior High and juniors and seniors in the Pine Room in the basement of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

“Dickinson Public — wow,” said Heather Schieno, a school counselor, who wears other hats. “There are no words to express how they’ve reached out to us.”

All those affected are adapting, said Steve Glasser, Dickinson Catholic Schools president.

“Teachers and students are getting back into a routine,” Glasser said. “Teachers are teaching, students are learning. I think, overall, it’s been a very productive and very positive week.”

The classrooms in the Pine Room are much smaller than Trinity students are used to, but the children and the teachers are making it work.

“While the location and the surroundings are different, our teachers have done a good job of getting us back into the swing of things,” Trinity junior Coltyn Nelson said.

Being separated from their underclassmen friends has been difficult for the juniors and seniors.

“Just being apart from our whole school is different,” Trinity senior Allison Steffan said. “Everyone talks to one another in our school, so it’s a big change.”

Trinity seniors are adapting after spending the majority of six years in the same building.

“It’s really different, but we’re hanging in there and just accepting the change,” Steffan said. “Hopefully we’ll keep some things the same. Prom is still going to go on and graduation.”

Details are still being worked out around prom and graduation, Glasser said.

“As far as graduation, we’re going to do everything possible to hold graduation in the auditorium,” Glasser said. “We’re not making a promise, yet. But we’re certainly going to do everything we can to be able to have our seniors walk across that stage.”

Welcoming Trinity students

The sophomores at Hagen are barely noticeable, Hagen Principal Marcus Lewton said.

“The one time I see them is at lunch,” Lewton said.

Trinity’s teacher and administration have been gracious guests in Dickinson Public Schools, Lewton said.

“They let me know what is happening,” he said. “I don’t have any surprises.”

Because of the projected growth at Hagen next year, Lewton and his staff put in place a plan it expected to use next fall to accommodate the Trinity students.

“You do things for those in your community,” Lewton said. “Next year, it would be impossible just because of the extra number of kids we’re going to have.”

The impact to Hagen is minimal compared to that of Trinity, Lewton said.

“This is going to inconvenience you just a little bit,” Lewton said he told the students and staff. “But nothing compared to their students, nothing compared to their staff, nothing compared to their leadership.”

Moving forward

Students who will return to Trinity next school year have faith that decisions on where they’ll be taking classes in the fall will get worked out over the summer.

“I’m not that worried,” Nelson said. “I know our administration is going to do everything they can to get us back into a permanent building for next year and our community has been great in support. Realistically speaking, I’m not worried about the future because I know we will rebuild.”

Schieno added: “We’re just anxious. We know what’s going to happen, we just don’t know when.”

Those at Trinity have faith in the people leading them, but more importantly, in divine intervention.

“God has a plan,” Schieno said. “This is what I tell kids. God has a plan, but the answers come in his time and not when we want them.”

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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