By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
75 year old building receives facelift
UTICA — The moment one walks through the doors of Our Lady of Lourdes School he/she is absorbed into its history. The building serves as a wonderful monument to those who appreciate superior craftsmanship and architecture. However, behind the antique oak doors and towering windows, staff and students endured varying degrees of temperatures depending on which classroom they found themselves in. Two of the three boilers in the school are run by steam and are the originals from 1928. The heaters in the classrooms hissed and sputtered and had to be adjusted by hand valves. In the dead of winter, many of the windows were opened for relief from the soaring temperatures in the classrooms. Now, with funds received from the Diocese’s Heritage Campaign, the school was awarded $97,000 to update the entire heating system, remove asbestos and repave two parking lots.
Bishop James Moynihan established the Heritage Campaign in 1999 as a way to raise funds to build and maintain churches, schools and other diocesean institutions. A strategic long-range plan was put into place to enhance the Catholic schools and the quality of the religious education programs in the diocese. “We must build up our parishes as centers of our Catholic community and make critically needed repairs to existing parish buildings,” said Bishop Moynihan. Under this initiative, schools in the diocese are given the opportunity to apply for capital improvement funds. Each request goes before the Heritage Campaign Board, which has approved classroom and building renovations for 31 schools throughout the diocese.
When the children of Our Lady of Lourdes School return to classes in September, they will find temperature controlled classrooms that are quieter and more cost efficient. They will also be checking out books from the school’s brand new library. Under a separate fund-raising endeavor, over the last two years parents and community members were able to raise $50,000 to completely renovate the school library. New oak shelving, windows, electrical upgrades and eight new computers are just a few of the improvements the students and faculty will enjoy at the start of the school year.
The new library will be named in memory of Samantha R. Scibior at a dedication ceremony scheduled in late fall. Samantha, a 2002 graduate of Our Lady of Lourdes, was killed in a car accident in August 2002. “Samantha was very active in the library service club,” said Carol Polito, principal of Our Lady of Lourdes. “It was her favorite place to be. She spent a lot of time with the librarian. We just knew this room had to carry her name.” Through additional grants and contests, the school was able to make more improvements throughout the building. A $1,000 Library Systems Grant from BOCES enabled the the school to run a four-week summer library program, which allowed children to take out books, come in and work on the computers and attend a daily story time. In September, with the opening of the new library, the school will kick off a birthday book club. Parents or family members can donate a book to the new library in honor of their child’s birthday. A label with the child’s name on it will be adhered to the inside cover of the book. The parent or family member will work hand in hand with the librarian to choose the books. In May, the students successfully completed a contest sponsored by Wal-Mart. As the result of reading 1,000 books, the students were presented with a three-foot-high statue of a Dobby Doll, a popular Harry Potter character. Dobby is displayed in the library window and looks out at the children as they enter the library. “The students love that doll,” said Polito. “While he may not be attractive, the children were very excited to win him.”
The school also won an environmental grant from Wal-Mart. “The fifth graders devised a recycling program for our building,” said Polito. “As a result, we were awarded $500 that was used to landscape the grounds around the school.”
With all the improvements going on at Our Lady of Lourdes this summer, the building is buzzing with activity. Polito explained that the staff is busy moving forward on all the renovations while running a summer program for the area youth at the same time. The children played in groups in the majestic auditorium while at the other end maintenance workers pounded and dismantled ancient radiators. And in September, the school will shine almost as bright as the faces of its students.