Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — The Vikings at St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic School are all together again after being separated for several months. The school is one of three in the Diocese of Lake Charles that received significant damage last year from Hurricanes Laura and Delta.
“This principal is very happy to have us all back on one campus,” said Wendy Wicke, pointing to herself.
The transition to the temporary facility on Feb. 22 could not have arrived fast enough.
“My goal ever since we had to split up was to get us all back here together,” the principal said. “Our students, especially our junior high, are really happy to all be back home.”
Students in grades 5-8 had been using the third floor of Immaculate Conception Cathedral School since Nov. 2, while the PK3-Grade 4 students remained on the original St. Margaret site until the temporary campus was installed.
The 21,000 square-foot complex spans one city block — taking up half of the St. Margaret Catholic Church parking lot — with 25 individual modular buildings strategically placed together to construct four separate structures. Designed by ACSW Architects and constructed by The Patch Group LLC, the complex was supplied and set in place by Trinity Rental Service.
The temporary facility provides an area for 8 junior high classrooms, 12 elementary classrooms, a library, computer room, administration area, and a bus drop-off area. The individual buildings are connected by approximately 2,500 square feet of elevated walkways and covered awnings to provide cover while walking throughout the complex.
Wicke said it was all hands-on deck for moving day to get the classrooms ready for the 259 students.
“The company that helped assemble the facility volunteered 10 of their employees to come help us move. We also hired a moving company of 10, and St. Louis Catholic High School sent a great deal of students over to volunteer for their service hours,” she said. “With additional help from husbands who volunteered, we were able to move into the school in two days.”
Noting how blessed St. Margaret’s is to have such a dedicated group of parents, Wicke said, “They have buckled up and taken this ride with us and have been very loyal to St. Margaret’s and what we all have been through. The parents have been real troopers.”
The principal also praised the teachers and staff for their dedication through all the challenges, even as far back as the previous school year when COVID-19 abruptly halted in-person learning.
“They have been tremendous through all of the transitions. They really are the backbone to the school,” Wicke said. “They have pushed to keep school open (for face-to-face instruction) and worked hard to make sure when the kids walked back on campus here that there was some semblance of home to it.”
Wicke said they were able to salvage a lot from St. Margaret school, including lockers from the junior high building and desks for the students, which help provide a familiar atmosphere.
Incorporating regular routines has also added a sense of stability to each school day.
“One of the things we have been able to bring back is our prayer routine,” the principal said. “We have morning announcements and prayer, we pray the Angelus at noon, and then afternoon prayer.”
Another big plus to being on the same campus is the opportunity, as a student body, to walk across the street to the church for Mass on Fridays.
“Our first full Mass celebrated together on March 5 was the most beautiful feeling in the world,” said Wicke. “Father Sam Orsot, parochial vicar of St. Margaret Catholic Church, was great about celebrating Mass for the junior high students on the third floor of ICCS, but it is so nice to have us all back in the same church.”
The response from the teachers has been one of excitement and enthusiasm.
“They believe that St. Margaret will continue to be as strong as it’s ever been since it opened in 1949, even in a temporary facility. They are so excited that we have a place to all be together again,” said Wicke.
Temporary buildings are nothing new for Devon Melville, the Spanish teacher in her sixth year at St. Margaret. She was a student at South Cameron High School the year of Hurricane Rita in 2005. She said that being separated from her students and other teachers at St. Margaret was hard.
“There was a big disconnect when we were separated on two campuses. St. Margaret is a strong family,” said Melville. “ICCS was so welcoming. They were awesome and hospitable. They really made us feel at home, but when we came back here, that first week was just a sigh of relief. Now that we are all here on this campus, there is an unspoken feeling of knowing there is nothing we can’t do. The possibilities are endless.”
Considering all the challenges everyone has faced — and still is — the school’s spiritual mission statement for this year holds an even deeper meaning.
“Every year, our eighth-graders choose a mission statement for the upcoming school year as their way of leading the school,” explained Wicke.
The mission statement for 2020-2021 is: For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control. — 2 Timothy 1:7
“Who would have known that we would have had the year that we have had?” Wicke said. “God has a way of giving us words that speak volumes.”
Even though the school site at St. Margaret is temporary for the time being, one thing that remains permanent is a spirit of perseverance.
“St. Margaret is still a thriving school; it always will be,” said Wicke. “When we are able to get our original campus back the way it needs to be, we will be even better and stronger than we were prior to the hurricanes. In the meantime, St. Margaret Catholic School is here and very much alive.”