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St. Joseph's in Harvard seeks donations for historic building's roof

Published: Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 5:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 11:40 p.m. CDT

HARVARD – A dozen years ago, Mike Shukis wanted to give St. Joseph’s Catholic School a brand-new home.

The building was – and is – far from new. Among other problems with an older building, a boiler heating system meant – and means – that during the winter, some rooms ended up warmer than others. So Shukis had a goal to get the kids into a new school, and whether it was practical or not, he made it known.

“Some of the teachers took offense to that,” Shukis remembered. “They said, ‘This is my home.’ ”

Fast forward to today, and Shukis has grown a deeper appreciation for the school at 201 N. Division St., right across from the church. In an effort to keep the building ticking, the school has launched an effort to raise $36,000 for a new roof. So far, they’re about two-thirds of the way there.

Mary Ann Connley was one teacher who voiced her support for keeping the original location of the school, which was built in 1916 and dedicated by the local historical society in 1991.

Connley has seen St. Joseph’s from every angle. When she attended in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the school was still run by nuns from Sisters of the Holy Cross.

After graduating college, Connley found herself back at St. Joseph’s, living rent free with her family while teaching at a school where she’d had fond memories. That teaching stint lasted from 1973 to 1979.

She returned to the school in 1999, shortly before discussions of a new building.

“The location so close to the church is very desirable, and there wouldn’t have been any vacant property,” she said. “And the school had a very nice tradition that was nice to maintain.”

Connley supports staying in the new building because of its history, but also because it seems the practical option, she said.

The school, Connley said, has everything needed, including big, airy rooms that are easy to arrange.

Shukis has come to agree that a new building isn’t needed. And he added that, as the school has had to scrape money together for a roof repair, it’s probably not reasonable to think it could raise enough for a new building.

That’s all right, he said.

“We are happy this is our home,” Shukis said. “The children are happy.”

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