ELLIS — The first day of school for St. Mary Catholic Elementary School has been pushed back to Sept. 10 to allow for repairs after a severe thunderstorm damaged the building on July 25.
A storm early that evening created a microburst in the area of the church. The downdraft tore off half of the metal roof and caused a pressure build-up that blew out the east wall of the gymnasium, leaving a gap of several inches between the wall and the roof. About half of the classrooms and the office received significant water damage.
A structural engineer assessed the damage soon after the storm and said parts of the building would not be structurally safe for students. The school began to look at bringing in mobile classrooms to start the school year as scheduled on Aug. 23.
A press release Monday from Amanda Shannon, St. Mary School Council president, said a design engineer and architect later surveyed the building. They met with the structural engineer and Father Dana Clark, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, and determined the gym wall can be structurally supported with temporary bracing that will make the rest of the school safe for students, according to the release.
Clark, Principal April Pfeifer and the St. Mary School Council decided to push back the start of the school year to allow time for a contractor to brace the damaged wall and secure the damaged roof of the gymnasium. That will also allow for more time to repair the damaged classrooms.
Parents will be notified if the repairs are completed ahead of schedule and school is able to start prior to Sept. 10.
Monetary donations are being accepted to assist with the replacement of damaged school supplies at Equity Bank. They should be addressed to Attn: St. Mary’s, PO Box 255, Ellis, KS 67637.