OWATONNA — The air was heavy on the second floor of Pillsbury Hall Tuesday morning while 10 volunteers dismantled the build-out that housed St. Mary’s School classrooms for second- through eighth-graders during the 2015-2016 school year.
St. Mary’s announced last August — just weeks before the first day of school — that it would be moving kindergarten through eighth grade to the Pillsbury College Prep and Camp Campus after uneven flooring was discovered at the parochial school’s permanent location on South Cedar Avenue in Owatonna.
Since then, a committee, led by St. Joseph Business Manager Al Christenson, has been working with a team of architects, engineers and other professionals to resolve the problem and return teachers and students to the permanent site.
“We do plan on being ready by fall,” Christenson said.
After celebrating the last day of school on June 7 at Pillsbury, St. Mary’s teachers started packing their classrooms into boxes, which were picked up by Kath Trucking on Wednesday and will remain in trailers through the summer, leaving only the build-out of temporary classrooms behind.
“Everything was out on Friday,” said Kathleen Segna, St. Mary’s School principal.
And on Monday, volunteers with Habitat for Humanity of Steele-Waseca Area arrived to finish the project.
“We’re going to repurpose the materials,” said Pat Heydon, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Steele-Waseca Area.
In April, Heydon was approached by the Rev. John Sauer, a priest at Sacred Heart Church, and the Rev. Edward McGrath, a priest at St. Joseph Parish, and asked if Habitat for Humanity would be interested in the build-out materials, including doors, sheet rock, steel studs and electrical wiring, because the school didn’t have a use for them.
“We’d repurpose to keep it out of landfill one way or another,” Heydon said. “If we didn’t use it, we’d call our ReStores in the area.”
But she said the donation couldn’t have come at a better time because Habitat for Humanity is slated to break ground on its upcoming new build on Glendale Street in Owatonna this summer.
“I’m just tickled,” Heydon said. “We’re so excited about this donation.”
So is Daud Abruhasan, who will be the homeowner of the upcoming new build with his wife, Nafiso Abdi, and their seven children.
“It’s nice,” he said. “I’m speechless.”
Abruhasan volunteered Monday and Tuesday with the deconstruction of the St. Mary’s build-out.
Tony Durand, who is the job site supervisor for Habitat for Humanity’s new build in Owatonna, said the material donated will be used on the interior of the house. But until the house project starts, it’ll sit in a trailer donated by Michaletz Trucking.
“I’m thinking this is a big plus,” he said, noting he thought they’d be done at Pillsbury by the end of the day.
Since its founding in 1992, the local Habitat for Humanity has built or refurbished 24 houses, including the one recently completed in Waseca, for 34 adults and 65 children. The Owatonna build will be the organization’s 24th.
“It’s really come full circle,” Segna said. “It’s people helping people.”
Christenson said work on St. Mary’s project, which comes with a price tag of $2.25 million, is exceeding expectations.
“We’re on good track,” he said. “There’s really no better way to describe it than beautiful. It’s starting to look real nice.”
Of the $2.25 million, about $1.2 million will go toward the construction cost to repair St. Mary’s classrooms, $200,000 will go toward the asbestos abatement, $20,000 will go toward sprinkler requirements, $150,000 will go toward professional feeds and $159,225 will go toward contingency. It also includes $150,000 for the build-out of temporary classrooms and the $332,400 rent at Pillsbury.
To raise funds for the project, St. Mary’s launched a campaign called “Investing in Our Children” earlier this year and is still accepting donations.
For more information, call 507-446-2300.