Repair costs could reach $100,000 at Nativity Catholic Church and the co-located Nativity Elementary School after vandals gained access to the roof last week and used rocks to smash 37 large, custom-fit windows, police and school officials said.
The broken windows have been boarded up, but the vandalism could put a crimp into how classes are run when school starts on Aug. 22.
“Three of the classrooms had to be sealed off for a specialized clean-up company. Fabrics and carpet had to be thrown, and the entire rooms must be meticulously vacuumed” to ensure students are not hurt by shards of glass, said St. John Paul II Catholic Schools Network President Mike Hagstrom.
Windows have been ordered and are expected to arrive late next week, but there will likely not be enough time to get them installed before classes start, Hagstrom said. School staff are considering using the art and music rooms, and possibly the library, as temporary classrooms, he said.
The Rev. Kevin Boucher, Nativity’s pastor, said it’s normally a very busy time of year. Now, it’s also very stressful.
“We’re not able to deal with the normal things we deal with at this time,” he said. “It’s taking its toll on my people, but they’re all rallying around and doing what we do so well, moving ahead.”
Boucher said he was told repair costs could be between $70,000 and $100,000. Hagstrom said the Fargo Catholic Diocese has insurance. But it’s unclear how much of the damage costs will be covered.
The vandalism took place sometime between 10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3, and about 7 a.m. Friday, Aug. 4, when parishioners arrived for daily Mass and school employees arrived to teach a summer program, Hagstrom said. The buildings are at 1825 11th St. S.
On the church side, the atrium area was particularly hard hit, with the floor covered with rocks and shards of glass. The glass of several skylight windows was smashed out all the way to the window frames, and some of the window frames were damaged, too, Hagstrom said.
Several elementary school classrooms had windows smashed. In three of the classrooms, where both panes of the double-pane glass were broken and sprayed into the rooms, all the fabric, window coverings and carpets must be ripped out and disposed of and the rooms professionally cleaned to ensure students are safe, Hagstrom said.
Rocks the size of a man’s palm to that of a big man’s fist litter the ground in a landscaped area outside the church atrium and some school classrooms. Dents in metal wall panels show where some of the vandals’ throws missed their mark.
In the church, where sheets of plywood greet visitors as they enter, furniture sprinkled with glass shards had to be tossed and a picture of the “Divine Mercy” was scratched by falling debris.
“I ask my people to pray for these people. Pray for these people to come forward, so they’ll know God’s mercy and justice,” Boucher said.
Boucher and Hagstrom said it appeared the vandals gained access to the roof at a low spot by one of the entries, then were able to reach the roofs over both the school and church. Rocks were then apparently used to smash the windows.
Officer Jessica Schindeldecker, a Fargo police spokeswoman, said the buildings had cameras, but they were not located in spots to capture video of the vandals. She said police are asking any neighbors with surveillance cameras to check whether they have video that could help identify the vandals.
Photo Credit: Ace Glass