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One month after St. Mary’s Catholic School in Morris experienced extensive water damage, repairs are on track to be finished before the scheduled first day of school. This photo of the hallway on level two shows fans helping dry out the building. (Submitted Photo)

St. Mary's repairs on schedule to finish for first day of school

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St. Mary's repairs on schedule to finish for first day of school
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

MORRIS – Despite water damage that damaged nearly the entire building, officials expect St. Mary’s Catholic School in Morris to be ready for students by the first day of school in September.

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The news that the school will be open in September was a bit of a surprise. Just last week, newly-arrived Principal Joseph Ferriero and a task force of school and parish representatives were working on a plan to have students in mobile classrooms for the first three weeks of September.

But last weekend, representatives from the school’s insurance company and contractors working on the building said the school will be repaired and ready to open by Sept. 1, Ferriero said.

“The insurance company is pushing it and ServiceMaster guys are amazing,” said Ferriero. “They have been open and honest and told us everything that is going on.”

The flooding in the building on the night of June 28 and 29 was caused by a plugged drain, which caused approximately 157,000 gallons of water to collect on the roof. The weight of the water, an estimated 1.3 million pounds, eventually tore a hole in the roof, collapsing a 15 by 25 foot section of the ceiling. Water funneled into the building through the hole, flooding nearly every room in the school.

Although he officially started work with St. Mary’s in mid-July, Ferriero said he has been in contact with Father Todd Schneider and Board President Chad Braegelmann since the flood in June.

“It was constant conference calls just to make sure that I was involved as I could be even though I was so far away,” said Ferriero.

Ferriero previously served as an assistant principal and science teacher at a Catholic school in New Jersey. He interviewed for the position at St. Mary’s this spring while at home visiting family in Wheaton.

The school’s insurance company will pay for the building to be repaired to the state that it was before the flood, but those at the school are planning to make some additional improvements.

One of the biggest changes will be new, high-efficiency LED lighting in the building. The initial cost for LED lighting is higher, but in the long run the new lights should save on electricity costs, said Ferriero.

“Considering that the building is used not only for school but also used for religious education, those lights are running all the time.”

St. Mary’s will also be changing the layout of the main office, updating the kitchen to stainless steel to meet new codes, upgrading the phone system, and adding new fire and security systems.

The new layout for the front office will expand the principal’s office, add a small conference room, and open up the space for visitors.

“It’s going to be a little more professional looking than it was before,” said Ferriero.

To help pay the additional costs for upgrades like the new security system and upgraded lighting, St. Mary’s has started a donation page with GiveMN. Ferriero emphasized that the school’s insurance is paying for all of the repairs, but the school will need to pay for any improvements.

“These things need to happen, and this is the best time to do them,” said Ferriero. “It’s the best time to put in new lighting. It’s the best time to put in a new security system because the walls are gone.”

Donations can be made online at https://givemn.org/project/Flood-Fund53c6a228098db.

For the most recent updates on the repairs at St. Mary’s visit https://www.facebook.com/stmarysmorris or http://stmarysmorris.com/roof/.

Since the flood, Ferriero said there has been an outpouring of support from families, alumni and community members.

“There have been people who have really no connection to the school who know there are kids that need that building and there are teachers who have worked so hard for years in that building, they need their building back,” said Ferriero. “It’s nice to know that the community is into that and is supportive of what we’re doing.”

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Kim Ukura
Kim Ukura has served as the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune since August 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 2008 with degrees in English and journalism. She earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2010. Prior to returning to Morris to work at the Sun Tribune, she worked in trade publishing. She has been recognized by the Minnesota Newspaper Association for both business and public affairs reporting. 
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