Update: Plan in place to relocate grades 2-8 after flood leaves most of Columbia campus 'uninhabitable'

Update: Sat., Feb. 21, 8:20 p.m.— Church and school officials— with assistance from the city of Boston— have devised a plan to resume classes for St. John Paul II Catholic Academy's Columbia campus in the wake of a devastating flood that left large portions of the school's facilities in serious disrepair. The plan calls for grades K-0 through 1 to use classroom space within the Columbia Rd. annex building, which was not damaged when a pipe-burst in the adjacent building— an older structure that once housed the old St. Margaret's Grammar School.

Students in grades 2-8 will be relocated to space within Our Lady of Czestochowa's parish at 655 Dorchester Ave. in South Boston, just over the bridge from Dorchester within the Polish Triangle. The parish school— known as St. Mary's— closed in 2009 and is not used during the weekdays. It is, however, maintained for Polish language classes and other parish activities and in good condition.

"This is a good option and we just have to expedite moving some things into the buildings," said Rev. Jack Ahern, pastor of Blessed Mother Teresa parish, who has been engaged in assisting the Academy in managing the crisis since the incident last Tuesday.

Ahern said that Mayor Martin Walsh assisted in helping to expedite an inspection of the annex building that was needed to issue an occupancy permit that will allow this plan to move forward. Cardinal Sean O'Malley has also taken direct action to assist in finding alternative space for the older grades. Other sites that had been considered included St. Peter's Teen Center on Bowdoin Street and Gate of Heaven School in South Boston. The Dorchester Ave. location at Our Lady of Czestochowa is closest to the St. John Paul II Academy location and is considered to be the best option, according to Ahern.

A burst water pipe caused a “significant” overnight flood inside the Columbia Road campus of Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy. Damage from the incident is so severe that the school will likely be closed for months as work begins to make repairs, according to Rev. Jack Ahern, the pastor of the adjacent Blessed Mother Teresa parish.

Read a letter from school officials regarding the incident.

The pipe burst on the fourth floor of the old St. Margaret’s school building on Monday night, sending water cascading down to the floors below and leaving 3-4 inches of water on each level. The flood was discovered by a custodian the next morning. The school building is “uninhabitable,” according to Fr. Ahern, who said that early estimates are that the costs of cleaning up the mess and fixing the building could cost millions.

An adjacent building— which was added to the old St. Margaret's building when the campus was expanded and includes a new auditorium— was not impacted by the flooding.

In a letter posted on the school website, administrators told parents that they "have been advised that use of a majority of the school will be uninhabitable for the next few months due to clean up and repair efforts. It is possible that the repairs may extend through the end of the current academic year. We know that this may present a burden for you, but rest assured that we are working diligently to ensure the solution will be the least disruptive for you and your family while enabling us to continue to provide a safe and comfortable academic environment for our students and faculty."

On Wednesday afternoon, heavy ventilation machinery was visible in the school’s parking lot and workers from ServiceMaster Restore were on site as well.Classes are not in session at the school this week as it is February vacation week.

The Columbia Road campus has seen significant investment and improvements in the last decade as it was transitioned from a parish-run school to a campus of the Dorchester-wide Catholic academy system. Other campuses include Lower Mills (formerly St. Gregory’s), Neponset (formerly St. Ann) and Mattapan (formerly St. Angela’s.)



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