WARWICK — When officials at St. Kevin School learned late last week that damage caused by a ruptured water pipe over Thanksgiving weekend was worse than first thought, the community stepped forward to ensure that the school’s 240 students would be able to resume their studies as quickly as possible.
Warwick Mayor Joseph J. Solomon Jr., a parishioner of St. Kevin Church, whose wife and son are graduates of St. Kevin School, offered the use of the city’s former Randall Holden School, which closed last summer, as a temporary setting for the students while the damage at St. Kevin School is repaired.
“The mayor has been exceptional at giving us support,” said Father Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Church.
It was Father Marciano who first discovered at about 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24 that a heating pipe had ruptured as he was driving around the school building while making his usual rounds.
“The walls were all wet,” he observed, and when he went inside to check on the cause he discovered that a 3-inch hole had opened up in the heating pipe in the girl’s lavatory and that hundreds, if not thousands of gallons of water had been pouring through the building.
“Hot water in a building goes everywhere. It’s a mess,” Father Marciano said.
At first, Father Marciano and Principal David Irving were hopeful that the building could be cleaned and made ready for the students to return by Monday, Dec. 3, but the damage to the ceiling and walls was found to be too extensive.
So instead of students coming back in on Monday, a small army of volunteers reported to St. Kevin to help move crucial learning materials over to the former public school near the airport that will serve as St. Kevin’s temporary home for the next couple of months.
About three dozen off-duty Warwick firefighters were on hand, along with some members of the Knights of Columbus, teachers, staff, parents and parish volunteers to help Astro Movers staff load trucks for the move.
Music teacher Beverly Hopkins, who has worked at St. Kevin for five years and also serves as an assistant in grades 3-5, came in to lend a hand.
“It’s a disaster, it’s so sad to see it all,” Hopkins said Monday as she packed some more delicate learning materials into her car so she could transport them to the new learning space.
Although the large pools of water have now been cleared from the floor of the music room, the damage lingers. A piano became swelled with water pouring down onto it and several keys are misaligned and no longer work.
Posters and other learning aids Hopkins had collected through the years were ruined and had to be disposed of.
Parent Brad Smith, whose two sons are in grades 1 and 3, is glad that the school year will be able to continue without any further interruption.
“I need them to be in school. They need the routine, they need the learning, they need the socialization, they need it all,” he said of the time spent away from the classroom. “They’re not as productive if they’re not in school.”
The family did make the most of the time off, though, as Smith said a trip to the Children’s Museum and regular reading were an important part of the week off.
Administrative Assistant Joanne McGrath said that the Pre-K classroom area was among the hardest hit parts of the building.
“They lost all of the rugs that the kids sit on and most of their books,” said McGrath, whose son, now a sophomore at Bishop Hendricken, attended the school from Pre-K to grade 8.
“As a parent and now as an employee it’s a hard thing to see,” she said.
Assistant Principal Dereyth Dwyer, who has worked at St. Kevin School for the past 14 years in various roles, said that although this crisis has been devastating for the school, there exists a very strong sense of community both inside and outside the parish to help them overcome these challenges.
“I know if there is one school that can rise above this, we can. We’re a strong school, we’ve been through a lot throughout the years and we’ve always managed. We have a wonderful support system here,” Dwyer said.