Parma’s St. Anthony of Padua School Settles into Temporary Quarters in Fire’s Aftermath

Crews continue to work at the St. Anthony building to remove debris, assess damage and begin repairs to the 60-year-old structure.

A classroom of St. Anthony of Padua School in Parma, Ohio, reopened in temporary facilities after a February arson.
A classroom of St. Anthony of Padua School in Parma, Ohio, reopened in temporary facilities after a February arson. (photo: Courtesy photo / Catholic Diocese of Cleveland)

PARMA, Ohio — What a difference a week makes.

Last week, dozens of volunteers were scurrying through St. Bridget of Kildare School in Parma unloading and organizing thousands of donated items to help St. Anthony of Padua School, also in Parma, reopen in the aftermath of a fire that severely damaged its building. Volunteers included St. Anthony parents and parishioners, as well as students from nearby Holy Name High School in Parma Heights and Padua Franciscan High School in Parma. Padua and St. Anthony of Padua Parish share a campus on State Road.

St. Bridget School closed in June and thanks to the foresight of Father Rob Wisniewski, the parish pastor, the vacant building had been cleaned top to bottom and was ready for its next tenant. Little did anyone realize that would be another Parma Catholic school.

A devastating arson fire on Feb. 19 caused more than $1 million damage at St. Anthony School, forcing more than 200 students in grades K-8, the faculty and staff to move into temporary quarters for the remainder of the school year. Crews continue to work at the St. Anthony building to remove debris, assess damage, and begin repairs to the 60-year-old structure.

Patrick Klimkewicz, St. Anthony principal, and Father Dale Staysniak, parish pastor, said they are grateful to Father Wisniewski and St. Bridget Parish for their assistance in relocating to their property.

Klimkewicz said his priority was to get everyone moved into the temporary location and to get the instructional side of the school operational. “It’s been tough for the staff,” he said, explaining they lost all their resources. Teachers had to start from scratch to rebuild and reorganize new classroom spaces at St. Bridget. Fortunately, desks and other furniture were in place. Thanks to the generosity of the community, vast amounts of school, classroom and cleaning supplies were donated to help St. Anthony get back on its feet.

Plenty of pencils, pens, markers, crayons, notebooks, folders, books, etc. were donated and divided among the classrooms. However, each day someone discovers something that they used to be able to grab from a desk, cabinet, etc. that isn’t available. “There were a number of financial contributions that are helping us to replace these needs in different classrooms,” Klimkewicz said, adding how grateful they are for the donations.

Parents and students got a first look at their temporary home during an open house on March 3. Grades 6-8 returned to class on March 4 and on March 7, the entire school was back in session on the St. Bridget campus.

He said they prepared for the worst, expecting some members of the school community to be traumatized by the fire.

“We’re doing well,” Klimkewicz said. “Everyone is settling in but there is a lot to do.”

A display in the hallway of St. Anthony of Padua School's temporary quarters in Parma, Ohio. Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.

A display in the hallway of St. Anthony of Padua School's temporary quarters in Parma, Ohio. Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.

Classrooms are neatly arranged with bright displays, crucifixes, statues and other typical school items. Students and teachers picked up where they left off and resumed learning. Also, there are encouraging signs located throughout the building, reminding all that “Together we can do anything” and to have “Cougar Pride” and to “Stay Strong.”

Klimkewicz said they are becoming more acclimated to the space, “But there’s no place like home.”

Anyone with information about those responsible for the fire should contact the State Fire Marshal tip line at 800-589-2728, Parma Police Detective Marc Karkan at 440-887-7323 or the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 216-252-7463. A cash reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible for the blaze.

This article was first published by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland's Northeast Ohio Catholic March 10, 2022. It is reprinted at CNA with permission.

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