FAIRFIELD, Conn. – It has taken Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport 10 months and more than $1 million, but it has given its entire ground floor a complete makeover just in time for school to start.
“It’s just a testament to the human spirit,” said Meg Reilly, director of Trinity Nursery School in the church. Everyone, from the parents to the teachers and volunteers, worked together to ensure that the preschool would open on time after being damaged last year by Hurricane Sandy, she said.
About five feet of water covered the floors at Trinity, damaging the walls, pipes and boilers last year after the hurricane hit. For the school to return to the space, contractors had to go to the foundation and completely rebuild the school from the ground up to bring it to code.
In all, it has cost the church about $2 million, Trinity Senior Warden John Morgan said. About half of that has been repaid by the insurance company, Morgan said. He added that he wasn't sure how much more of that would be reimbursed.
The building was originally constructed in 1965 to house the overflowing Sunday School. Fairfield resident Jan Perry suggested starting a nursery school to use the space during the rest of the week. When asked Tuesday what she thought of the new space, Perry laughed and said it was so bright and seemed much bigger than the school she helped to found.
When it was clear that serious reconstruction was needed after Hurricane Sandy, the students and teachers from Trinity found a temporary home at Trinity Greek Church in Bridgeport. But the teachers are happy now to be back in their own and brand new space.
A full class of 110 students will return to the school when it reopens Monday, Sept. 9, Morgan said.
“It’s really exciting to be in a new space,” said Kathleen Lucas, head teacher for the 5-Day-4’s program. “We weren’t allowed here until August 29, but Meg would give us updates.” The teachers have been spending the last week bringing all of their stuff back from their homes and setting up for the new school year.
Even with a few workmen still on the site, the school officially reopened Tuesday with a ribbon cutting attended by members of the church, nursery school teachers and Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey.
“This truly is a story of the community rebuilding,” Vahey said. “What I see clearly just walking up here today is how everyone has been working together.”
Morgan called the reopening a triumph, adding that they had finished the project on time “against all odds.”
“We return to this place with thanksgiving where new life is evident,” Associate Rector Dawn Stegelmann said as she blessed the red doors that open to the nursery school, thanking the construction group and volunteers who had helped.