Small D'Iberville School Makes Big Leap Toward Recovery - - The News for South Mississippi

Small D'Iberville School Makes Big Leap Toward Recovery

"With a new life, clean heart, living for the Lord," sang a group of Kindergartners.

Their teacher, Cathy Chapay, still has a song in her heart, despite facing so many hardships. She not only lost her home in Katrina, but also everything in her classroom at Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary, where she has taught for 34 years.

"It's absolutely heart breaking," said Cathy Chapay. "I retrieved a rosary that my mother brought me from Italy.  That was the only thing that I got out of that room."

Since the storm, classes have been held in the Sunday school building at Big Ridge Baptist Church. While teachers are thankful for the space, they are longing to go home.

"Yes, I'm looking forward to being in our own school, and our own classrooms," said Chapay.

That wish is about to come true. Crews are busy repairing the old building, and adding more classrooms, storage space, and enclosing the hallways.

"It's going to be better than it was before," said Principal Jane Sema.

Sema is thrilled to see the transformation. She still remembers the moldy walls, muddy floors, and ruined memories.

"Mixed emotions, some are happy because we've gotten so far," Sema said tearfully. "It was hard.  But we've come a long way, and we're excited."

Finally, there are happy tears, because teachers and students are just months away from moving back to Sacred Heart.

"We are ready to come home. We can't wait," said Sema. "We're pushing these contractors to get us in by December."

When asked if she is looking forward to going back, Cathy Chapay smiled and said, "Am I ever. You have no idea. Yes, most definitely."

Katrina caused more than $1 million in damage to Sacred Heart. The school also lost some students, and had to cut its staff in half. If money is available, the principal hopes to fill those positions after the school reopens in January.

By: Trang Pham-Bui

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