The new Trinity Catholic School building in north Spokane came about through good timing, the right people, and perhaps a bit of divine intervention.
The school is overseen by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which is led by the Rev. Jose Millan. Millan previously worked in Pullman, where he got to know Edmund Schweitzer, who founded Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, and his wife, Beatriz.
Millan often talked to the couple about the school run by his parish, said school principal Sandra Nokes. The couple donated $1 million for an endowment to help families pay tuition. Then one day Schweitzer dropped by for a visit and asked Nokes what else he could do.
Nokes said she asked for new windows for the aging school. When Schweitzer urged her to think bigger, she was stumped. “He said, ‘How about a new school?’ ” she said. “They funded the entire thing.”
The Schweitzers donated $4.5 million for a new two-story building on the site of the school’s playground down the street at 2315 N. Cedar St. The classrooms are larger with plenty of windows to let in natural light. Each room has an interactive whiteboard and there are 72 Chromebooks for the students that are in use all day.
The school’s Educare program was expanded to accept infants through pre-kindergarten students, who are housed in the basement. There are 82 students in Educare and another 156 in grades K-8. Nokes said the school can accommodate up to 225 students in K-8.
“Our goals with the building were function, low maintenance, durability and enough room to do what we need,” she said. “I think we can go another 90 years.”
The community is invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday. Bishop Thomas Daly will lead Mass outside at 10:30 a.m., followed by a ribbon-cutting, building tours and refreshments. The building will open again Friday evening from 5 to 7 for additional tours.
Nokes said she’s noticed a difference in the students as they adjust to the expanded room and better lighting in their new surroundings.
“I think God knew we needed this,” she said. “I really believe, from start to finish, it was providential.”
Longtime cook Kathy Halstead still marvels when she talks about her new kitchen, which she helped design. Her former kitchen in the old school, a 100-year-old brick building, had equipment that was 50 years old. There was no dishwasher, no ventilation and an oven with only four racks.
Finding room in the refrigerator was also a struggle. “It was a constant shifting of everything that needed refrigeration,” she said.
She has an oven with 10 racks now, plus a dishwasher and walk-in refrigerator and freezer. “Now we have this fantastic cleanup area,” she said. “Cleanup is a breeze.”
She kept only a pastry table and a 25-year-old mixer from her old kitchen. “It works really well and it’s the right size,” she said of the mixer.
Halstead has been a cook at the school for 40 years. She was a student there as a youngster and her mother was the cook there for 25 years before she took over. “I still have some of her recipes,” she said.
Camille Guy, who volunteers in the kitchen, has a daughter attending the school. When she was a child, Guy attended Trinity as well.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s not hot. The old school had all those windows and it was warm.”
The kitchen and the classrooms got hot, particularly in the fall and especially in the south-facing rooms. “The teachers just died,” said Nokes.
The classrooms have improved as well, Guy said. “I think the classrooms are set up better,” she said.
The old school building at 1306 W. Montgomery Ave. will be torn down and replaced with a gymnasium. The playground currently on that site, called Shane’s Playground after a former student who died, will remain.
Now that the former, larger playground no longer exists, the school will use Shane’s Playground for its popular annual Cow Plop Bingo. The playground is divided into grids and players try to guess in which grid a cow will “plop.” Since the playground is smaller than the former location of the fundraiser, the school will use miniature cows this year, Nokes said.
This year’s Cow Plop Bingo is scheduled for June 2 and tickets can be purchased by calling the school at (509) 327-9369. Demolition of the old school is set for June 4 and the new gym is expected to be completed in late fall or early winter.
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