Queen of Peace School ‘razes the roof’The first thing most motorists spotted while driving into Cloquet this week was the silhouette of a giant construction crane on the hilltop by Queen of Peace Catholic Church and School.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The first thing most motorists spotted while driving into Cloquet this week was the silhouette of a giant construction crane on the hilltop by Queen of Peace Catholic Church and School. The crane represented the starting point of an ambitious project to remove asbestos sheeting from the ceilings of the school, demolish the building’s aging roof, trusses and brickwork, and completely renovate and upgrade its classroom space.
As Sister Therese Gutting looked on from the yard outside the school on Wednesday, she beamed with pride over the pending rebirth of the 86-year-old building.
“This school is going to be fabulous,” she said. “It will be bigger and completely up to code, with an elevator and complete handicapped accessibility.”
Almost a year ago to the day, Gutting took over the reins as principal at Queen of Peace School in Cloquet. Shortly thereafter, a group of workmen who were replacing some light fixtures in one of the classrooms discovered the ceiling in one area of the room appeared to be coming down. As they began to investigate, they discovered the outer wall of the building had begun to separate from the inner wall. An engineering firm doing some routine work on the outside of the building was called in to help investigate the root of the problem, and they subsequently discovered that one of the building’s original trusses was cracking, likely due to the weight of ice and snow that built up the previous winter. As it was cracking, it was pushing the
“They informed me it was a disaster waiting to happen,” said Gutting.
Engineers and contractors determined the roof of the school would need to be taken off and replaced, which would also involve nearly a complete renovation of the second-floor classrooms, as well as the abatement of asbestos in the ceiling tiles and the replacement of windows.
As it turned out, the school’s insurance was adequate enough to cover the cost of the estimated $4 million renovation, as well as the upgrade of an unused basement area of the school for interim classroom space until the renovation could be completed.
Dick Daniels, Queen of Peace maintenance supervisor, explained the first phase of the rebuild project as it got under way this week was to remove the asbestos sheeting and insulation, which one of the workers referred to as “the consistency of bread crumbs,” with the help of the giant crane. Beginning Thursday, the plan was to take the roof timbers down in sections, alternating with sections of the adjoining brick work.
“Over the years, water has infiltrated into the brick work and has made mush of it,” said Daniels. “It’s just like clay after all of those years of thawing and freezing, so it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens when those timbers are removed and the weight is lifted off those trusses. Once we get past getting the whole roof off, we can move on to rebuilding the walls.”
The whole structure has been protected from the elements, so even if it rains, the interior will be safeguarded.
Boldt is the general contractor for the project, which is slated for completion next October, with the move into the new classroom space set to take place over the MEA break.
“This is a challenging project but it’s going to be a fun project,” stated Mike Gassert, project superintendent for Boldt. “Everything is going well so far.”
Gassert said the current phase of the project will probably take up to two weeks before the trusses can be removed. Then the project should move forward at a brisker pace over the summer with an eye toward completion in mid-fall.
“We have nothing but opportunity here, and we welcome anyone to come and join our wonderful school,” concluded Gutting with a smile. “In two years, we’re going to celebrate the school’s 100th year – and what’s happening right now is history in the making.”