By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Their old boiler was about to give up the ghost. Holy Cross students and teachers had put up with chilly classrooms in cold weather, but the aging boiler needed repairs. In March, the school was inspected by the new diocesan insurance company, and school principal Barb Deane suspected the inspector had bad news. She was right. The boiler was shot.
There were other ongoing projects at Holy Cross to renovate and upgrade the facilities, overseen by Jeremy Lillig and the diocesan Bright Futures Fund. Deane alerted Lillig about this problem.
“This is not a sexy project, but it needs to be done,” Lillig, Director of the Bright Futures Fund/Strong City Schools Fund, said. “The old system lasted 33 years, so it was time for a new one. Holy Cross has made many strides to upgrade the school building. When we got an estimate on the cost of a new boiler, it was expensive! It would cost approximately $275,000 to have a new system installed. Then we found out that the electrical system was inadequate to operate a new boiler, and would need a complete overhaul of the amps.”
This wasn’t going to happen overnight. “While we were working on the problem,” Deane said, “we needed to keep the boiler going for as long as we could, and we didn’t have a full-time custodian. Nathan Eyres, director of grounds keeping and maintenance at St. Elizabeth’s Parish, helped us limp through the rest of the school year.”
The biggest question hanging over Holy Cross’s staff and board was how would they pay for a new boiler?
Enter Loretto Charities. In April, Lamar Hunt, Jr., attended the School Bell Breakfast, which raises awareness of and funds for the Bright Futures Fund and Strong City Schools, and became interested in the schools — Our Lady of Guadalupe, Holy Cross and Our Lady of the Angels. Hunt, president of Loretto Charities, issued a $100,000 challenge grant to Holy Cross School, in good faith that the school and parish community, as well as others, would step up and help. Several donors have contributed another $35,000.
Having that money in the bank, the school could get started. City-Wide Heating and Cooling was hired to overhaul the electrical system and install a new boiler, but the technician in charge of the project realized there were not enough amps in the school’s electrical system to support a new boiler. So he designed a system of 12 home furnaces with ducts all feeding into a central duct, which will heat the entire school. In the event that one furnace should fail, only that furnace would have to be replaced, not the whole system.
City Wide is also in the process of installing ductless air conditioners in the classrooms and offices at Holy Cross. The school building is 53 years in use, and this will be the first time the whole school will be air conditioned.
Lillig said that a cooler school will not only be more comfortable in warm weather, but “dehydration can set in in a hot building and can exacerbate physical challenges. A cooler school will be a safer school.” Coolers of cold bottled water and classroom fans have been provided for the school’s 172 students, but air conditioning will be a dream come true.
The furnace duct work has been installed, and work begun on the air-conditioning systems. But a roadblock has been thrown up by Kansas City Power and Light. The electrical wiring throughout the school building is aging and failed to meet code. It costs money to bring wiring up to code, and the school and Bright Futures Fund are working to resolve the problem.
The new furnace and air conditioning units are energy efficient. Add that to the solar panels that are being installed on the building’s roof, and the school can look forward to a significant reduction in heating and cooling costs. The air conditioning condensers will also be on the roof.
August 13 was the first day of school. Workmen were removing the deteriorating back steps, the duct work and solar panels were delivered, and technicians were at work on the furnace installations and wiring. Over the summer, the parish and school community had come together to volunteer to make some cosmetic renovations in the cafeteria and the second floor of the school. A gift from the Neeb family last year had made it possible to repaint the first floor, making it brighter and lighter.
At the same time, the health department had informed the school that the asbestos tile in the kitchen and cafeteria was cracked and deteriorating and must be removed or the school would not be allowed to open in the fall. Parent volunteers helped remove the old tile, scrub and sand the concrete floor and seal it with a concrete polish. Old cabinets were fixed up and painted or replaced, walls were scrubbed and painted.
An old storage area is being cleared out, cleaned up and refurbished with the idea of a multipurpose space for meetings, assemblies and perhaps a library down the road.
Deane said lighting for the whole school will improve later this fall with the installation of LED lighting fixtures.
“Lots and lots of what we’re doing,” Deane said, “will not only make it more comfortable, brighter, and look better; we’ll be saving money for the school, and for the parish, since we’re on the parish’s electrical account. This is stewardship of our environment.”
With new programs including music, and new heating, air-conditioning and lighting, Deane has high hopes for the future. “Parents, kids, teachers and the community see the investments made in the school and believe that it will continue to grow and improve.”
If you would like to contribute to help Holy Cross School meet the challenge grant and/or the total project, $70,000 remains to meet the challenge and $140,000 to cover the entire project. Contributions may be sent to the Bright Futures Fund, c/o Holy Cross HVAC, P.O. Box 419037, Kansas City, MO, 64141-6037. For questions or additional information, contact Jeremy Lillig, Director, Bright Futures Fund, (816) 756-1850, ext. 511 or visit www.brightfuturesfund.org.