Summit Country Day students begin today

Xavier opens buildings on campus for use by high school students after portion of their school collapses | January 29, 2004

Less than two weeks after part of the main administration building at Summit Country Day School collapsed onto the frozen school grounds, more than 300 students and 30 teachers are moving onto the Xavier campus today in an unprecedented arrangement to get students back in class.

Shortly after the collapse of the school’s building on Jan. 18, plans began to find a place for the students to finish the year. Elementary school children were moved to a local church, while Xavier agreed to host the school’s high school students once available space on campus could be set up to meet the needs.

A fast-paced effort on all sides—from Summit and Xavier administrators to physical plant staff and food service vendors—has been underway since. Those efforts were completed and students start on campus today, Thursday. Jan. 29.

The entire high school is gathering for a convocation at the Cintas Center beginning at 10:00 a.m., where upper school director Tom Monaco is addressing the student body about its time at Xavier.

Junior and senior students are being released at 1:00 p.m. to attend their first classes on campus. Their classes take place at a variety of locations around campus, including the A.B. Cohen Center, Alter Hall, Hailstones Hall, and the Logan and Lindner science buildings. On Friday, Jan. 30, they begin attending classes on campus all day.

Freshman and sophomore students, meanwhile, are spending the entire day today in the banquet room at the Cintas Center with their teachers. They will attend class in the Alumni Center when it becomes ready for occupancy, possibly as early as Monday, Feb. 2.

“We were a logical place because we’re in the student-services business,” says Richard Hirté, vice president for financial administration and co-chair of the University’s hastily arranged Summit relocation task force. “We felt it was something that came up, it was a tragedy beyond their control, and we tried to fill in the need. We’re carrying out our role of university as citizen.”

On Friday, Jan 23, Summit officials accepted Xavier’s offer and on Saturday, Jan. 24, workers began cleaning up vacant space at the Alumni Center in preparation for converting it into classrooms.

Bob Sheeran, associate vice president for facility management, said about 20 contract workers have been in the building since Saturday, Jan. 24, cleaning and laying carpet, repairing walls, painting, installing fire alarms and exit signs, and adding new lighting. Cincinnati fire safety inspectors must certify the space meets fire safety codes before the city can issue an occupancy permit for its use as a school. Inspectors are on site today, Jan. 29.

“All our staff and partners that are contractors have really stepped up to the plate, and their attitude is they’re pitching in to help meet timetables,” Hirte says. “They view this with a spirit of excitement to get that group up and operational.”

Hirte said he’s certain the space will be ready by Monday.

“I feel strongly Xavier would do this for any school in need,” says Joe Ventura, executive director of the University’s national alumni association and director of Summit’s alumni group. “But it was not a no-brainer. It was a challenge to identify available space on campus not being utilized by Xavier. That was a complex task to identify all classes in session at what time and what was available.”

Ventura’s son, Nicholas, is a fifth-grader at Summit and his wife, Julie, is a Montessori teacher. Her classroom was in the portion of the building that collapsed.

“We are very grateful that no one was killed and that it occurred on a day when no one was in the building,” Ventura says. “The prayer service was one of thanksgiving and moving forward and turning this into an opportunity to grow and make the best of a difficult situation.”

By late Wednesday, Jan. 28, a large, unused area of the newly renovated Alumni Center had taken on a new look with five-foot tall room dividers defining 18 classrooms for 160 freshman and sophomore students. Workers have been rushing to get the space ready for inspectors and students, hanging welcome banners, new lights and making last-minute installations of phone lines and data ports for computer hookups.

The students and 18 teachers in the Alumni Center have access to two more classrooms downstairs as well. They are taking their science classes in the labs in the Lindner and Logan buildings on the main campus and are being escorted across Dana Avenue between noon and 3:00 p.m.

Meals for those students in the Alumni Center are being catered in by Summit’s food service staff, and students are using the one-time cafeteria space in the building’s lower level for their lunch period. Those junior and senior students who are taking classes throughout campus are eating lunch with Xavier students in the Cintas Center cafeteria or the Gallagher Student Center.

Tom Barlow, director for auxiliary services, created a special Xavier student identification card for the Summit students and their teachers. Those cards will be used at the cafeteria and food courts to tally the number of meals the students eat. Xavier is being reimbursed for the meals.

Xavier is not charging Summit for using the space in the Alumni Center or the various campus classrooms—all of which were unused and available—nor will Xavier incur any real costs, Hirte says. Summit’s insurance is expected to cover the cost of all building renovation and other related costs.

The arrangement with Summit is expected to last until the end of the school year, through June 6.

Hirte says Xavier is helping Summit because their organizations are compatible—they’re both in the business of education—and the University believes in being a good member of the community.

“This was an institution in dire straits, and if we can assist them, then we’re doing the right thing,” he says.