PARMA, Ohio (WJW) – Eight months after an arson ripped through St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School in Parma, students and staff remain burned out of their building.
The fire was discovered around 10 a.m. on Feb. 19 by a maintenance worker. Investigators believe the arsonist crawled through a basement window overnight.
“The fire had actually burned for such a long time that the steel trusses began to collapse and then there were some structural walls that were also impacted,” said Principal Patrick Klimkewicz.
Everyone hoped the building would be ready for the new school year, but the principal says they’ve just learned that it won’t be completed until September 2023.
The damage inside was far more extensive and expensive than originally thought.
“I can tell you, the whole scope of the project with the rebuild, I’ve heard numbers anywhere between like $6 (million) and $9 million,” said Klimkewicz.
About 200 students attend the school which employs around two dozen staff members.
They will now continue attending St. Bridget school, which closed in 2021.
Klimkewicz says they feel “very fortunate the building happened to be available,” but it also comes with some challenges.
Some classrooms and the gymnasium had already been redesigned and repurposed.
“They renovated their gymnasium into a conference center that used to serve as St. Bridget’s gymnasium and also their cafeteria, so for this upcoming school year we’ve had to make a lot of adjustments,” Klimkewicz said.
Now they’re reimagining meals and assemblies.
They’ve also reached deals with other schools to enable their students to compete in volleyball and basketball.
“We’re going to go from surviving to thriving,” said Klimkewicz. “That’s kind of the motto for this year.”
The State Fire Marshall and Parma Fire Department are still investigating the arson with support from ATF.
A reward for information on the arson has been increased to $12,500.
Tipsters can contact the State Fire Marshal’s tip line at (800) 589-2728, CrimeStoppers of Cuyahoga County at (216) 252-7463 or Parma Police Detective Marc Karkan at (440) 887-7322.