BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST POINT – After nearly 14 months of fundraising and planning, Dorothy and other Wizard of Oz characters helped usher in a new era of learning at the Holy Trinity Catholic Elementary School in West Point.
“What a wonderfully sad and happy day for Holy Trinity,” said HTC Chief Administration Officer Michael Sheerin to a gymnasium full of dignitaries, staff, students, and community members Wednesday morning.
“As we prepare to replace a building that has truly passed the test of time, we look to prepare our students of decades to come with a new school filled with technology, modern furniture, shiny floors and bright colorful rooms and hallways, all filled with the latest academic tools and wrapped up in a faith-based learning environment. Our own Emerald City.”
The school district recently capped a weekend of musical wizardry with the performances of The Wizard of Oz and Sheerin had the cast at the ribbon-cutting ceremony as a testament to the characters that have made the school district what it was, is, and will be.
Senior Sabrina Fullhart sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with the audience in low tow and then Fullhart, who played Dorothy in the HTC musical, led other castmates and elementary children around the gym and over “the yellow brick road” to the end of the gymnasium. There, she and two kindergartners cut a ribbon signifying the end of the current school and the beginning of the new.
“We linked the end to the beginning and it’s the perfect time of the year with Jesus’s death and resurrection,” Sheerin said. “We got an ending that’s leading to a new beginning – a resurrection that will lead us into the future.”
The estimated $6 million project will entail demolishing the current school building east of the gym and rebuilding it to make the whole campus enclosed for greater efficiency and security, while bringing the facility into the 21st century.
Students in grades K-3 will be incorporated into current space in parts of the West Point location, while students in 4th-6th grade will be bused to the HTC high school campus in Fort Madison.
“We’ve changed the bell time so we won’t be in the hallways together at any time,” Sheerin said. “Specialty teachers like P.E. and art and such, will drive down there. It will be for the two months of the remaining school year and after that we’ll evaluate to see if things are working. Right now we’re dreaming the dream and hoping it doesn’t turn out to be a nightmare.”
Dennis Menke, who along with his wife Kate, spearheaded the campaign, said the project will begin with asbestos abatement starting April 3. He said that should last about two weeks if all goes well, and then demolition would take place which would take approximately two more weeks. The contractors and construction crews would be on site for about 15 months.
He said the campaign is right at the point of reaching the $6 million goal, but he said bids for the work aren’t in yet.
“We haven’t closed the campaign yet, but we’re right there,” Menke said. “The community really got behind this. I don’t know how many contributors we had, but it’s somewhere in the area of 600 to 700 people. We didn’t have any real large donations. Those (large donations) were $5,000 to $7,000 in that range, but a whole lot of $500s. It was just a lot of people coming together – it really was and it was really great.”