"I want you to be as honest and as candid as you can be with us," Brother Ronald Hingle told a group of 7th, 8th and 9th graders on Thursday. "It is your school and your opinion matters to us."
The St. Stanislaus students are brainstorming. Their assignment - come up with ideas to help rebuild their battered Bay St. Louis campus.
"Right now, our focus is on facilities, because that was the most devastating part of the storm for us. We had about $20 million in damage to our school," said Brother Hingle, President of St. Stanislaus. "So we want to come up with a new idea, a new proposal, a new way of looking at our school as we look to the future, and coming up with new state-of-the-art facilities."
The school's first priority is to build a new 14,000 square foot Dining Hall, then repair the broken pier. The students will help decide what should go up next.
"We want them to dream new dreams about SSE and ask the question: What could we do and how do we make it better? We're trying to see it as a great opportunity, not just a terrible tragedy," Brother Hingle said.
"We came up with a campus center," said Freshman Blake Butterworth. "We thought it was necessary that we have a nice campus center/recreational center."
One popular suggestion was to bring back the mall. It used to be the place where students would hang out before and after school, or during lunch.
"Because before the storm, downstairs on the first floor, we had a recreation hall. We had a mall where we can buy food and supplies," said Freshman Michael Carter.
Another question focused on what to do with the severely-damaged chapel. The building is historic, and cannot be torn down.
"It's really kind of small right now. So we really can't fit the whole school in there. We can only fit a couple of grades at a time. So we probably need it in a different place than it is it right now," said 8th Grader Brent Murphy.
Whether these plans become reality depends on available funding, especially from FEMA. The students are just grateful to have a voice in their school's future.
"Now that we're actually planning and raising money, I think we can come up with some good ideas and good buildings to use," Carter said.
The planning session ends on Friday, then all the data will be compiled and prioritized. The results will be posted on the St. Stanislaus website.