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Work toward the future: Trinity formulating plans for school, students to be back in building by fall

Press Photo by Dustin Monke Cordarroll Walker, left, and Shanika Ruffin, both of Chicago and workers for ServiceMasters Recovery Management, clean a hallway Wednesday inside Trinity High School. 1 / 3
Press Photo by Dustin Monke A classroom in the fire-damaged center portion of Trinity High School had its floor become detached from the wall. That part of the building has likely been left irreparable, officials said Wednesday. Above, 2 / 3
Press Photo by Dustin Monke The Knights of Columbus Activities Center gymnasium serves as storage space for auditorium chairs at Trinity High School on Wednesday as it is cleaned by ServiceMasters Recovery Management. 3 / 3

Life at Trinity High School will begin returning to normal as early as May.

Dickinson Catholic Schools administrators are moving ahead with plans for the future five weeks after the March 3 fire allegedly started by Thomas Sander, its former principal, devastated the school and displaced its junior high and high school students.

Trinity plans to hold graduation ceremonies in the school’s auditorium on May 25. Junior high and high school students will be able to attend class in the west wing of the building when the 2014-15 school year begins Aug. 25.

However, life at Trinity won’t stop improving there.

“In the midst of this tragedy, we certainly have an opportunity to move toward the future and that’s something we’re doing very aggressively,” said Msgr. Patrick Schumacher, vice president of Dickinson Catholic Schools.

Schumacher and Dickinson Catholic Schools President Steve Glasser said the central part of the building, where the fire started, has likely been damaged beyond repair. Glasser said administrators are “pretty certain it has to be demolished.”

The school board will meet with insurance adjusters next week to determine the best way to repair the damaged area that includes administration offices, the library, two classrooms and part of its main hallway.

“After next week, there should be a lot of clarity, as far as the actual status of the structure,” Glasser said. “There’s definitely structural damage to that part of the building.”

‘Unified campus’

Following those decisions, discussions will turn to the school’s future.

A space feasibility study is being planned to help Dickinson Catholic Schools determine the next step for the building.

Glasser and Schumacher both said the long-range plans include turning the building into a K-12 campus. That would eliminate the need for Trinity East and Trinity West elementaries at the St. Wenceslaus and St. Patrick’s parishes, respectively.

“We’ve been talking about a unified campus for a long time,” Schumacher said. “Since the fire of March 3, there are a lot of things to consider. One option is to return to Trinity High School as it stands now. Another is to look at some different options, which can begin to implement our long-term vision and plan.”

Though classes will be held in the west wing of the building next fall, Glasser said there’s a possibility that the school may have to use some modular classrooms.

Along with the likely razing of the building’s center section, airflow the night of the fire led to more smoke damage in the east wing. Schumacher said the east wing will be “assessed for our future academic and core space.”

All options for the future of that section of the school are on the table, Schumacher said.

“Everything is a possibility,” he said.

As Dickinson Catholic Schools moves forward with plans for a K-12 campus, Schumacher said utilizing available space is key, including the former convent east of the school that is now being used as a rented apartments.

“I didn’t realize how big that school was until you start walking through it, assessing damage,” Schumacher said.

“If we move 7-12 into the west (wing) and if we create new academic and core space to the east, then — if implemented successfully — we can pursue the possibility of creating new academic and core space for our elementary levels. Then we would have a unified campus.”

Recovery continues

The fire has caused Trinity to make changes that will bring the building up to code, including installing elevators, as well as a new fire alarm and fire suppression system.

“With both of these facilities, the real important part is getting the fire alarm system back and functioning,” Glasser said. “We’re working with everyone on that. We cannot hold any activities until we get that in place. That’s not a quick fix.”

Schumacher said ServiceMaster Recovery Management, the company contracted to clean the building, has had about 60 to 70 people working 12-hour shifts for more than 30 consecutive days now — an estimated 25,000 hours of cleaning — and they’re taking care of everything from books and papers to desks and other equipment.

“Every object has to be removed, wiped and treated … for 24 hours,” Schumacher said.

Glasser said about 1,000 tubs of books and documents were removed from the building for cleaning.

The Knights of Columbus Activities Center gymnasium is clean and usable. So are the locker rooms and weight room.

The auditorium is in the midst of being cleaned now. All of the chairs inside have been removed and the ceiling is being cleaned.

“They’re making tremendous progress,” Glasser said.

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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