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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Education

After fire, students return to class at ‘Camp’ St. Charles in the old Jefferson School building

UPDATED: Thu., April 15, 2021

Students played a game of pick up basketball on the usually quiet courts at the old Jefferson Elementary School building while Sister Francis Marie watched from her classroom door.

Students from St. Charles Catholic School are completing the academic year at “Camp” St. Charles after a suspected arson fire destroyed much of the school building last month.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, classes were moved online, Principal Heather Schlaich said.

However, online learning is difficult with the school’s new classical education model that is heavily based on discussion, Schlaich said. So school administrators began looking for a location to continue teaching in person.

Schlaich reached out to Spokane Public Schools and was quickly put in touch with Superintendent Adam Swinyard. It wasn’t long before they discovered the old Jefferson Elementary building was available for the rest of the school year.

St. Charles administrators worked with a team from Spokane Public Schools to quickly get a plan in place. St. Charles will pay a facility usage fee to the district to cover mainly utility and custodial costs. Schlaich said the school’s insurance will cover the cost to use the interim facility.

Schlaich said she is beyond thankful to Spokane Public Schools and the team that made the move into Jefferson possible.

When the school community found out about their new location, Schlaich said it was a huge relief for everyone. She created an Amazon donation page for school supplies and the community fulfilled all the requests in less than 10 hours, Schlaich said.

Parents volunteered to help set up classrooms last Friday on the final day of spring break.

“Every teacher just had a list and the parents just did everything,” said teacher Carly Sanchez. “It was so nice.”

First grade teacher Cathy Akers, who has been at St. Charles for more than two decades, said parents made “something that could have been very daunting” a breeze.

“The kids did very well on the online learning, but it’s just not the same,” Akers said. “They were eager to get back after spring break and to see their friends.”

After a month of online learning and then spring break, the return to school was exciting for everyone, Schlaich said.

“The parents were so happy,” she said. “It was like the first day of school again.”

While its location on the South Hill at the corner of Grand Boulevard and 37th Avenue is quite the distance from the school’s usual location in Northwest Spokane, only a handful of students, mostly preschoolers, have left, Schlaich said.

On Monday, students streamed into “Camp” St. Charles for the first time past a familiar wooden cross.

The large carved cross was given to the school by a woodworker in Idaho years ago and was normally displayed in the school office, Schlaich said. Just two days before the fire, it was moved into the gym that was untouched by the flames.

It serves as a reminder that everything happens for a reason.

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