Monday, December 22, 2008

Chance to Help in KC this Christmas

The Key's Marty Denzer sends in this story about a badly timed boiler blowout at a Kansas City Catholic school. Please read on and help if you can:

Cold temperatures hit Our Lady of Guadalupe School
By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

KANSAS CITY — The coat-and-stocking-capped kindergartner trotted out of his classroom, arms stiff at his sides, teeth chattering, “Cold! Cold, cold,” and disappeared into another room. The temperature inside the 93-year-old Our Lady of Guadalupe School building at 23rd and Madison hovered in the balmy 30s. Electric space heaters provided what little heat there was.

On Dec.12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Connie Bowman, principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe School and staff members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine next door noticed that a small leak in the boiler in the heating plant shared by the shrine and the school had gotten worse; the pilot light was extinguished. Bowman called in U.S. Engineers to check it out.
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(Fourth grader Patrick Razo works on the computer in a chilly classroom. Behind him, Devin Miller, grade 5, and Manuel Sainz, grade 4, work mouse and keyboards with gloves.)

The diagnosis was poor. The boiler, which was only about 25 years old, had tried to operate with pipes that had rusted out. The boiler gave up and gave out, leaving the school and shrine without heat. Their only solution was to replace the boiler.

U.S. Engineers estimated a replacement boiler would cost $45,000, installed.
Bowman and the shrine association ordered the new boiler.

Shrine Association members pledged half the replacement cost: $22,500. Bowman remains confident that the school can raise the other half.

“The fact that it happened on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe has us hoping that means Mary wants us here for a very long time in a warm building,” Bowman said.

She cancelled an all-school Mass on Dec. 12 and the Christmas program, both of which were to take place in the shrine.

Guadalupe Center around the corner offered their facilities for the students, so for four days teachers and kids lugged books, supplies and other things to the center and then back to the school at the end of the day. Dec. 19 was a half-day and Bowman decided to keep the students at the school and sing Christmas carols (including new songs including, “Frosty the First Grader” and All I want for Christmas is a new Boiler,”) or play/practice on computers.

Bowman was proud of the students.” The kids are troopers, she said. They’ve been real good about keeping up with their school work in the midst of all the chaos. Moving from school to Guadalupe Center in the cold and being cooped up in the building all day with no recess. They were real troopers.”

And the teachers were heroes, she added. “Especially the kindergarten and first grade teachers had to carry all sorts of extra equipment with them, more than just spelling and reading books. They took it much better that I expected.

“The only complaint I’ve heard was ‘Can we keep our coats on?’ Everyone has just taken it in stride. They’ve handled the challenge well,” she said.
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(Kindergartners, first and second graders gather around the piano in the music room singing songs from their cancelled Christmas program.)

The school sent out a call telling of their plight and asking for help. Earlier this week Vince Cascone, principal of Visitation School, walked into Guadalupe Center with several students and handed Bowman a check for $1,000 toward the boiler.

Another principal has scheduled a “jeans day” and expects to raise about $300. Bowman is confident the school, with help from its sister schools and donations from generous individuals, will be able to raise the money for the new boiler.

When the students return to school on Jan. 5, they’ll lug their books and supplies to Guadalupe Center, at least for that week. The installation of the new boiler should be complete by Jan. 9, Bowman said. Meanwhile, the school community will continue to work on figuring out how to pay for the new boiler.

Donations may be made on-line by visiting www.centralcityschoolfund.org and clicking on the boiler fund link. Those wishing to send a check can mail it to the Central City School Fund, P.O. Box 419037, Kansas City, MO 64141-6037.