St. Vincent working on school in Haiti, elementary addition

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Construction is underway Monday at St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School in Cape Girardeau. The addition will have 10 classrooms, a kitchen, a cafeteria and a band room. (Fred Lynch)

Opening in the fall of 2012 in Cape Girardeau will be an addition to St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School. Around the same time, a school will open in Thomassique, Haiti.

Both have much to do with the efforts and financial contributions of the local Catholic church's parish members, who are service-minded people, said church leader the Rev. David Hulshof.

While the projects aren't directly related, there are many things in common between the two, said Skip Wrape, a parish member and board director for Out of Poverty Thru Education, a local not-for-profit organization helping to build a school in Haiti that will become home to 175 students.

Planning for St. Vincent's $4 million expansion began at the same time -- four years ago -- as Out of Poverty Thru Education was forming and finding its mission of building a school in Haiti. The idea to focus on Haiti came from a former associate priest at St. Vincent, the Rev. Rahab Isidor, whose hometown is Thomassique. St. Vincent students and families have been involved in fundraising for the project, as service projects, from international to local, are a large part of the education that happens in the school, said Kay Glastetter, the school's principal.

"Last year, one teacher said instead of her students giving her a present that they should donate to OPTE," Wrape said.

Those contributions, as well as many from the work of Wrape and others in the Cape West Rotary Club and the community, have helped the Haiti school become a reality, Wrape said.

In Haiti, the school site has a security wall, water well, a kitchen and bathrooms. A foundation has been laid for classrooms. Wrape and organization members hope the school will provide a place where students can have at least one meal per day and obtain a chance at an elementary education. Thomassique is in a rural area where there is extreme poverty and little access to schools, potable water and sewer systems.

Classrooms will make up the largest part of the project at St. Vincent. The classrooms are part of an addition that will be south of the gymnasium at the Ritter Drive grade school. The school has also been using space in the old Notre Dame high school building across the street. The two-story central office building is also being renovated. Steel structure for the classrooms and other rooms is in place now, and crews will soon add a roof.

As the projects near their end, Hulshof reflected on setbacks that were overcome.

The Haiti school was delayed because of the 2010 earthquake, and fundraising for the St. Vincent's addition was delayed because of the state of the economy in 2008.

The church put its plans on hold for a while to give people some breathing room after the economy took a dip, Hulshof said, and went back at planning and fundraising about a year and a half ago.

St. Vincent, which has grades kindergarten through eighth, has seen enrollment rise from 365 to 448 students in the past five years, prompting the addition to the school. Parish members and other contributors have so far given $3.64 million in money and pledges toward the addition's total cost of $4.15 million. The addition will allow the school to continue growth up to 550 students, Hulshof said.

"I think what we are building now will take us well into the future," he said.

Hulshof and Glastetter say they believe the growth of the student population is due to more parents desiring a school environment where spiritual and moral aspects of the child are addressed in addition to academics.

"I think we have more families looking at the school because of the morals. And this is a parish very much geared toward service," Hulshof said.

Hulshof said the addition will not only benefit the school, but also parish members. When the students get their own cafeteria, the parish center used as their cafeteria now can be used even more for events and activities, he said.

Two corridors in the new addition, one on each level, will be tornado- and earthquake-resistant. The work on the addition began in June.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

1913 Ritter Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

The Rev. David Hulshof stands Monday in the first-floor tornado-resistant corridor which is part of the new construction program at St. Vincent de Paul School in Cape Girardeau. With a similar corridor on the second floor, everyone in the building could take shelter during a tornado. (Fred Lynch)

119 S. Spanish St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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