RIDLEY TOWNSHIP >> The wrecking ball is ready to arrive at Our Lady of Angels School.
But the school devastated by fire in July is not going away; they are merely clearing away the debris before the facility rises from the ashes.
Ridley commissioners signed off on the request to demolish the burned-out wing of Our Lady of Angels School during their recent building committee report. Once the wrecking ball is done its work at the fire-damaged school on Amosland Road, the school community can begin the task of rebuilding the classroom wing of the school.
"Hopefully it will be in use by September or by mid-year," said P. Michael O'Rourke of Godshall Kane O'Rourke Architects, about plans for the rebuilt school.
An early morning fire last July 18 destroyed the classroom wing of the school on the campus of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. The students are now attending classes at Cardinal O'Hara High School in a segregated area of the high school with its own private entrance in the front of the high school and its own section in the cafeteria.
O'Rourke said the new, two-story wing will have 20 classrooms, a resource room and an elevator. The parking lot has been reconfigured in a way that will allow school buses to drop off students onto the sidewalk rather than having them cross the drive way. He said demolition, estimated to cost $200,000, is expected to begin in mid-November. Work is continuing on a newer section of the school that sustained smoke damage as a result of the fire. The cafeteria in the newer section of the building will be enlarged during renovations.
According to O'Rourke, the three months delay from the time of the fire to the demolition date is due to insurance negotiations.
Msgr. John Savinski, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, said the young displaced students have adjusted very well to their new surroundings.
"One of the things that really captivated them is that the high school has lockers," he said with a smile.
Savinski said he is very happy that the school has been able to maintain its pre-fire enrollment of 330 students.
"It's been amazing," said parish business manager Gail McCoach. "People have been so generous and helpful."
McCoach said the PREP religious classes for children of the parish who do not attend OLA School are held at St. Francis of Assisi School in Springfield, while the volleyball program holds its practice sessions at the Ridley Community Center in Folsom, with games taking pace at the former Archbishop Prendergast High School gymnasium in Upper Darby, along with the basketball program. The annual CYO Mike Shaw Basketball Tournament in February will be held at the Prendergast facility.
"Our summer camp, called the Kids Kamp Child Care, was at Nelson Hall at Notre Dame deLourdes parish in the township and we only missed two days (for the camp) the week of the fire," McCoach said.