CHARLESTON—Thanks to a donation of $1 million from a generous benefactor, Charleston Catholic School was able to make some much-needed changes for the start of the 2004-2005 school year.
The benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a friend of Bishop David Thompson, former bishop of the Diocese of Charles-ton. He made the decision to contribute the money after touring the school in the spring of 2003.
“On the tour we took him to several classes, and he was able to talk with the children,” said Principal Yvonne Orr. “He was really impressed with the students and how extensive our curriculum is with our limited resources.”
The donor committed to giving the money in four installments, ending in December 2003. On June 5 of this year, the renovation project was underway.
“We had been talking about the possibility of renovating or even rebuilding,” Orr said. “We decided that renovating was the way we wanted to go because our history and richness is here in this building. The parents also expressed a desire to grow where we are.”
The first phase included the renovation of the bathrooms and their plumbing, removing the old boiler heating system and the radiators, installing central heat and air and replacing all the windows.
The building, located on King Street next to Sacred Heart Church, was built in the 1930s. The bathrooms dated from the building’s construction, and central heat and air were only a dream — each classroom had an individual air conditioning unit. These two projects were the first priorities, as well as brightening the hallways and classrooms with a fresh coat of paint.
“Phase One ended up costing a fortune,” Orr said. “Before we could even begin the projects, we had to have the building tested for lead and asbestos. The project was completed prior to the students returning for the fall with a two-day delay to make sure the kids could enter safely. We ended up spending about $600,000 on this phase.”
Phase Two will include the construction of a multi-purpose building which will house a full-size gym, kitchen, and all of the administration offices. At present, assemblies, school lunches, and physical education classes all take place in the same room.
“We desperately need another building, but we will need to raise another million dollars to build it,” said Orr. “We are intent on trying to raise the money to realize this dream. Our goal is to start this building in the summer of 2005.”
The committee is working on a strategy for soliciting donations. Several fund-raising activities are being planned to meet the building project’s monetary demand. Unlike a parish school, CCS relies on outside donations to fund its projects.
Meanwhile, the teachers and students are enjoying the renovations.
“The school is so fresh, clean, and bright,” said Sister Margaret Mary Faist, a Sister of Notre Dame and second-grade teacher. “They took those air conditioning units out of the windows, and I can actually hear myself talk. The children are much calmer and seem ready to sit down and learn. It is absolutely beautiful.”
Sierra Singleton, a fourth-grader, echoed Sister Faist’s sentiments.
“The school is a lot cooler and looks a lot nicer,” she said. “The bathrooms have such pretty yellow tiles. I like this year, and I love my new teacher.”
Msgr. Joseph Roth, vicar general, said it was a dream come true.
“I needed a towel packed with ice to revive me when I heard the good news,” he said. “I was thrilled that what was almost impossible to accomplish has taken place.”
He also looks forward to the final result. “It has already given the school a whole new welcoming atmosphere,” he said. “Once the envisioned project is funded we will take the school from a diamond in the rough to a beautiful shining diamond.”
“We can never properly thank our kind donor,” said Orr. “It is a vote of confidence for us for the future. I really believe that God has his hand in all of this.”
Orr also thanked Our Lady of Mercy Sister Bridget Sullivan who was instrumental in facilitating the donation.