By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
WEST POINT — A small Catholic elementary school in southeast Iowa is about to get a big upgrade, thanks to strong support from community members and alumni.
“It’s truly overwhelming,” said Dennis Menke, volunteer chairperson for the Holy Trinity Elementary School Project campaign. “It’s been a very easy campaign to raise funds for.”
Holy Trinity Elementary School in West Point is set to break ground on its elementary wing later this year, with hopes of having the building move-in ready for the 2019-20 school year.
Holy Trinity Catholic Schools kicked off the $6 million campaign in January 2017. Its feeder parishes in Fort Madison, Houghton, St. Paul and West Point made contributions of between $20,000 and $500,000. Community members “really sacrificed and stepped forward,” to contribute, Menke said. Newsletters featuring testimonials and updates have been sent to community members and alumni of the schools that formed Holy Trinity, leading to even more donations. “We have had about 4,000 alumni make donations.”
Some donations have come from surprising sources. Menke noted that one person who was initially not in favor of the project ended up donating $25,000 to the campaign.
Kumar Wickramasingha, who designs the newsletters and helps with other aspects of the campaign, said Menke and his wife, Kate, have been generous in covering campaign expenses. “None of the money raised has been used to promote or put on the campaign,” Wickramasingha said.
About 300 students are enrolled at the West Point elementary and the junior/senior high school in Fort Madison. Elementary enrollment is growing; this year’s kindergarten class of 31 students – an eight-student boost from the year before — is the largest since the local Catholic schools merged in 2005.
At present, the elementary campus is a labyrinth of different buildings’ sections. Students in kindergarten through third grade occupy the 140-year-old west building. The older elementary students occupy the east wing, which is made up of four sections of varying ages. Between the two wings is a gymnasium built in the 1950s. The east wing will be demolished to make way for the new addition, which will feature modern classrooms, offices, conference rooms and a main-floor cafeteria. All elementary students will be in the same building on campus, and the Early Childhood Education program will move from St. Paul to West Point. The new building will be handicap-accessible, complete with an elevator. Large common areas will provide collaborative spaces, dedicated art and music areas, a ground-level cafeteria, and state of the art technology. The gymnasium at the center of campus will remain in use. The west wing will be closed following completion of the east wing and demolished at a later date. Wickramasingha noted that teachers and staff have been part of the planning process.
The campaign reached the 60 percent threshold needed to move forward with the project late in 2017. At present, more than $5 million has been donated to the campaign. Around Easter, east wing occupants will be temporarily moved to the high school. After that, demolition and construction can begin.
Wickramasingha said the campaign has brought the community together, a sentiment Menke shares. “I’m proud of what we are doing with this small school,” he said.