CONSTRUCTING A CLASS: Classrooms take shape as Trinity continues to recover from fire

Modular buildings have become a common tool in western North Dakota. Oilfield and construction projects often necessitate the need for temporary structures that can be erected, used and moved at a moment’s notice.

On the outside, the modular classroom buildings being attached to the west wing of Trinity High School have a similar feel. But looks can be deceiving. Inside, the eight classrooms feel like they could be in any actual school building. In some ways, they’re better.

“You’d think you’re in a school,” Dickinson Catholic Schools President Steve Glasser said Thursday while giving a tour of Trinity’s construction and cleanup progress.

“We want our students to feel at home. We really feel this is going to be very comfortable for our students and our teachers.”

Temporary buildings have been used to alleviate burgeoning school enrollment in some communities affected by the Bakken oil boom. While Trinity doesn’t have that problem, it was put in a unique predicament following the March 3 fire that left more than half of its building unusable.

The cleanup is ongoing and should be finished by August, Glasser said. JE Dunn Construction is on schedule to have the modulars finished and ready for Trinity student registration on Aug. 6-7, when upperclassmen will give tours of the building to show all the work that has been done.

“There’s going to be a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of curiosity,” Glasser said. “New families and all families — every student, every parent — is going to want to walk through here, and we want to allow an opportunity for everyone to walk through the entire school. When they leave here, I think they’ll feel good about it.”

Each room in the modular building is about 130 square feet larger than a regular Trinity classroom. All are equipped with a thermostat almost every way, the modular unit will have the same feel as any other Trinity classroom — it just won’t look the same.

“I think they turned out nicer than what we really expected,” JE Dunn construction superintendent Chuck Mullin said. “They’re really nice.”

An enclosed walkway to shield students and teachers from the elements while transitioning between the school’s west wing and the modular building is one of the final elements of construction. A modular administration building will be detached from the rest of the school but is connected by an outdoor walkway. Trinity students won’t have to go outside to reach a classroom.

“It’s gonna help a lot with all the snow and all that,” Mullin said.

Finishing touches

The cleanup is nearly complete inside of Trinity.

All rooms along the north-south hallway in the building’s west wing are ready to be used again. The east-west hallway and cafeteria will be completed by the end of the month, Glasser said. A new central office is being constructed next to the Knights of Columbus Activities Center gymnasium.

JE Dunn is preparing to erect a new south wall inside of the gym. The current wall needs to be torn down as part of the demolition of the center part of the building that was deemed unrepairable following the fire.

“As soon as that wall is up, then they’ll start the demo,” Glasser said.

Because of the demolition, students will only be able to access the school’s auditorium through the gymnasium. The auditorium and the office of Rev. Kregg Hochhalter, the school’s chaplain, are the only parts of the east wing that will be used during the school year as it suffered significantly more smoke damage than the west wing.

The demolition is expected to begin in early August and take about two weeks, Glasser said.

While that is happening, teachers will begin moving into their classrooms and setting up. Every piece of equipment has to be moved back into the school after it was removed for cleaning following the fire.

“We want our teachers to have three weeks to get ready for school,” Glasser said.

With about six weeks remaining before school begins, Glasser said few issues have arisen throughout the cleanup and construction process. He laughed and said a locker count in the wing came up about 50 short of Trinity’s junior high and high school enrollment. He said they’ll likely take existing lockers from the east wing, clean them and move them into either the cafeteria or the modular building.

“We plan to have lockers for every student,” he said.

Survey says …

Once the cleanup is complete and school is back in session, Glasser said the development of Trinity’s five-year master plan will begin taking shape.

In a letter to parents, Glasser wrote that the school is working with Habeeb & Associates architectural and master planning firm, and the Partners in Mission group to develop its plan. Al Fitterer, a Mandan architect who has done work for three Dickinson Catholic parishes, is assisting Habeeb & Associates.

Over the past month, Dickinson Catholic Schools has been surveying faculty, parents, alumni and parents of alumni with a “tremendous response,” Glasser said.

A feasibility study will begin this week.

“We want everyone to be involved and engaged in this master plan,” Glasser said. “By the end of July, we’re going to have a lot of data. … We really feel it’s critical that our parents are intricately involved in this entire process. We’re trying to do a better job of connecting with our alumni. It’s their school.”


Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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