Following a flood during Christmas week, classrooms at Holyland Catholic School have undergone major renovations and were ready for the beginning of this school year. (Submitted photo)

Despite a flood that covered three inches of the floor at Holyland Catholic School, Johnsburg, during the week of Christmas, students didn’t miss a day of school.

A quick clean-up effort and some creative rearranging guaranteed students would be back in class when their Christmas vacation was over.

Now, just eight months later and in time for the 2023-24 school year, which began Aug. 28, renovations to the whole school northeast of Fond du Lac have been completed.

Principal Nicole Klein remembers answering a frantic call from a teacher after a heating pipe burst. “The alarms are going off and there is water everywhere,” is what she heard.

“During this time, it was extremely cold and windy,” Klein said. “When I got to school, the cafeteria on the lower level was like the Nile River and ceiling tiles were falling, water was leaking in the hallways. I opened the preschool classroom and steam poured out like a sauna.”

More water dripped from the ceiling and everything was soaked. Unfortunately, Klein learned the water also traveled across the ceiling into the second-grade classroom, and water was pouring down.  Additionally, the library suffered damage due to the steam from the hot water.

“We were very blessed that no one was in the building when it happened, since it was hot water that was spraying out. I have the pipe displayed in my office,” Klein said. “As we sat patiently waiting for the insurance person to arrive, the men drilled holes in the floor to eliminate further damage to other classrooms. I left that night with water everywhere, knowing we had an adventure ahead of us.”

The next morning, Klein and volunteers, teachers and staff coordinated efforts to begin the cleanup during their Christmas break.

“Fr. Paul (Koenig, O.F.M. Cap., Pastor of Our Lady of the Holyland Parish) came to view the ‘flood’ before Mass that morning. By the time Mass was over, the crew of volunteers had everything out of the preschool room into the hallway, and the floor was taken out,” Klein said. “All of the demolition was completed before the Christmas break was over. Classrooms were rearranged and put in every room and hallway to accommodate the students.”

“We relocated the preschoolers, second grade, and middle school math.  The students also had to eat in their classrooms since the cafeteria was under construction,” Klein said. “The two classrooms were demolished down to the studs and the library suffered moisture damage and warped books.”

Between insurance and parish support, the preschool room was completely reconstructed, and the second grade room was repaired, except for the salvageable counter and sink. There were new ceiling tiles, tables and chairs installed in the cafeteria. The floors in the classroom and library were replaced, and the floors in the hallways were stripped and waxed.

“The library floor needed to be replaced, which was mostly done by the parish.  Parishioners and community members donated books, toys and more.  Volunteers were all from the community; they did most of the construction work,” Klein said. “Parishioners and community members also donated money toward whatever was needed.  In spring, we had a vendor fair to raise money for the materials for new library shelves.  A volunteer built the shelves.  We raised enough money to add a leveled library in addition to the six library shelves.”

Included in the renovations is a space to honor military personnel, both veterans and active.

“Families and parishioners were asked to send in a photo in a frame of any family member or friend that has been or is in the military,” said Klein.

The small school of 58 students in preschool through eighth grade is very close-knit, like the rest of the community.

“It is a small-town feel with community members that welcome everyone with open arms. The entire community supports the school in any way they can,” Klein said. “The flood opened the door for volunteer opportunities. Since COVID, parents were used to not coming in to the school. To this day, there are volunteers at school willing to help with anything, whether it’s cleaning, painting, fixing things, serving lunch, working with students and simply making the school better.”