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VALLEY FOCUS | Pacoima

Catholic School's New Building to Open Soon

January 10, 1998|DARRELL SATZMAN

It's been almost four years since the Northridge earthquake destroyed the old classroom building at Mary Immaculate School, so teachers, parents and students at the Catholic campus figure they can wait one more week before moving into the new one.

Especially the students.

The $3.2-million building was originally expected to be ready Monday, but construction delays mean that students at the prekindergarten through fifth-grade school will get an extra week of vacation before returning to class.

"We're getting very close to finishing but there were a few more details to take care of so we thought we'd wait another week," said Father Tom Rush, Mary Immaculate pastor.

After the earthquake, St. Ferdinand's parish in San Fernando absorbed most of the Mary Immaculate students temporarily at its school. Four months later, Mary Immaculate brought in portable classrooms and its students have been meeting in them ever since.

Construction was initially delayed as Los Angeles Archdiocese engineers spent two years unsuccessfully trying to convince Federal Emergency Management Agency officials that the building was more than 50% destroyed and thereby eligible for a major rebuilding grant--instead of money for repairs.

The parish did not want to repair the building and instead opted for a loan from the archdiocese to rebuild the structure.

The new building is larger than the old one and contains several new features, including computer and science labs and a prekindergarten area.

"It's a bit of a burden and an inconvenience but we're willing to put up with these things because the new building is fabulous and the school is great," said Andy Weir, an oblate lay missionary at Mary Immaculate and a parent of students at the school.

Proceeding as planned will be a rededication and blessing ceremony at noon Sunday, with Cardinal Roger Mahony officiating.

Area leaders expected to attend the event include U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Mission Hills), Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Sylmar), County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and City Councilman Richard Alarcon.

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