My dear St. Paul family,
Back in December, I shared with you an address concerning the state of the parish. One of the points I brought up was about the four portables that were put in as classrooms 26 years ago at the school. These portables, as said, have truly outlived their life-expectancy. As a matter of fact, one of them (the Arts and Music Classroom) is no longer in use due to a serious problem with the floor.
During the past few months, I have been working with a group of advisors, the Diocese of Orlando and an architect firm to come up with a solution to provide our children at the school with permanent and fitting learning quarters. In seeking to tackle the issue, I MUST keep in mind the following factors:
Financial feasibility: The parish has a $2 million mortgage from the renovation. Another new construction could very well incur several more million dollars of debt. We have been struggling to pay the mortgage. I cannot in good conscience stack another burden on the shoulders of my parishioners. So, whatever will be done at the school will need to stay within our financial means, namely what we have been able to save over the years in our savings account, some assistance from neighboring parishes as well as donors, and even if we have to request a loan, it would be at the absolute minimum.
Safety: You can still remember how difficult it was for everyone during the renovation of the Church. A large construction could pose a serious concern regarding safety of the children walking back and forth around the school campus, and even parishioners in the parking lot.
Normal operations: Constructions are hard on everyone. If half of the campus is blocked off, separating the administration offices from the main school building, the operational aspects are in jeopardy. Parents aren’t as inclined to enroll children while the campus is a mess. Furthermore, where would I find a place for PK3/4, Kindergarten, and Arts and Music? Using the faith formation classrooms will only complicate the matter further, because half of the children will be in one end of the church property and half will be on the other…
Different plans were proposed, and we narrowed down to two options: (1) A new building that will house the administration offices and five classrooms and (2) renovating the current social hall, turning it into the face of the school with offices and classrooms.
The first will involve all the reservations I listed. The greatest challenge would be the cost… Easily, we could be looking at a project that will cost about $4 million or more…money which we do not have. St. Paul is not in a place where we could launch a capital campaign. Even if we want to borrow, currently we do not have half of what is required of the diocese in order to qualify for a loan of a $4 million building project.
The second option greatly appeals to me and the advisors because it excludes the mentioned risks. The children can still use the current classrooms until the renovation is complete. The work of renovation will be much more contained so as not to affect the school and the parishioners as much.
And of course, the cost… An estimate was given to us in the amount of $1,243,480 having already taken into consideration a 10% contingency. Most of this money we already have. Therefore, between fundraising and assistance from other parishes, even if we need to make a loan, it will be extremely insignificant and within our capability to repay.
This option is certainly not without disadvantages. The biggest problem is that the parish will no longer have a social hall. To answer your potential questions regarding:
- The Knights’ weekly meeting: We have been in discussion with the officers of the council at St. Paul’s and have worked out an alternative location for their meetings with the capability of catering to their needs.
- Fish Fry, Thanksgiving Dinner and the Guadalupe Celebration: We are going to upgrade the kitchen in the Holy Family Room to accommodate gatherings such as the Fish Fry on Fridays during Lent. As for the Thanksgiving Dinner and the Guadalupe celebration, they will be held in the school cafeteria which is only about 20 feet from the current social hall, and it was done in the past during the renovation of the church.
- School plays and other related functions: A stage will be put in the cafeteria to be used for assemblies and the play. The sports pavilion can also be another option.
There is no doubt that some aspects of the life of the school and church will need to be slightly altered. “This is how we’ve always done it” can’t be our constant mantra. Life necessitates changes. Discerning between the need for certain sporadic events and the daily needs of our school children, the pros do outweigh the cons.
I am aware that not everyone is going to agree and be happy with the decision I’ve made regarding this project. But in outlining everything, I wanted to share with you my thought process and to show you that I did not make this decision lightly – without having first consulted with experts and the Bishop himself. Herein you will find a rendition of what the completed project should look like. Some larger renditions are available in the Narthex of the church.. It will be beautiful!
I thank you all for your kind support and prayers for the success of this project.
Fr. Martin Nguyen