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Archbishop blesses newly seismically upgraded St. Monica, St. Thomas the Apostle schools

01 11.9.17_seismic retrofit.St.Thomasschoolphoto PAGEThe entire St. Thomas the Apostle School community posed Nov. 1 with Archbishop Cordileone and pastor Father John Sakowski. (Photo by Dennis Callahan/Catholic San Francisco)

November 9, 2017
Valerie Schmalz

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone blessed the newly seismically retrofitted schools of St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Monica in San Francisco, telling the students to “spread God’s life to the world and that the world might be a joyful place because God is known among you.”

The retrofits put the two Outer Richmond schools in an admirable position, as they are among the first to be completely retrofitted after the Archdiocese of San Francisco evaluated San Francisco schools in response to a mandated seismic review of private schools in the city.

“I have to say when people come to tour that always comes up,” St. Thomas the Apostle principal Judith Borelli said after the Nov. 1 ceremony. “Because the buzz in San Francisco now is so (about) seismic. Seismic is one of the things they ask about and they are much relieved that it is already finished.”

“I’m very proud of our parent community for collaborating together to make this project possible. The seismic retrofit and accessibility project was a major accomplishment and we are thrilled with our renovated science room,” St. Monica principal Vincent Sweeters said.

Father John Sakowski, who is pastor of the two parishes, said the schools also included deferred maintenance and special projects in the scope of work. The retrofits added framing to the reinforced concrete walls, strengthened the walls and corrected any distortions that would occur at the doorways to jam the doorway and prevent exit. “Unfortunately most of this work is invisible to the public since all walls and roof elements are beneath the final finishes.”

At St. Thomas the Apostle, the school also installed a new roof, new copper gutters, new vent screens, a new handicapped accessible bathroom, new water fountains, an upgrade of electrical power and new paint on the exterior and many interior walls, he said.

St. Monica, in addition to the new science room, replaced the roof, added a new handicapped accessible ramp, new handicapped accessible bathroom, new exterior doors and new paint on some of the interior.

An ordinance passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2014 required that all private schools be evaluated according to an engineering standard of life safety – that everyone can escape the building in the event of a significant earthquake. The ordinance, which applies to all private schools in San Francisco, does not require any retrofits.

However, the Archdiocese of San Francisco is encouraging all affected schools to retrofit to the life-safety standard of the ordinance. It commissioned additional seismic engineering reports exceeding the city’s requirements on each school building, with recommended structural changes and costs, and delivered them to pastors and principals between March and June 2016.

According to the archdiocese, the buildings remain safe to occupy. However, each of the 24 San Francisco Catholic elementary schools has some recommended seismic retrofit – some significant, and some less significant. The aggregate estimated cost of the retrofits totals $70 million to $80 million.

St. Anne of the Sunset moved its students into portables to complete its retrofit and plans the blessing of the completed work at the end of November. St. Stephen and St. Philip the Apostle completed work and Holy Name of Jesus completed Phase 1.


09 11.9.17_seismicStMonica.fr.johnexplains PAGEPastor Father John Sakowski explains St. Monica School retrofitting details to Archbishop Cordileone. (Photo by Dennis Callahan/Catholic San Francisco)


09 11.9.17_seismic retrofit.arch.blessesStMonica2ndgradefirstcommunion.reconcilationclass PAGEThe archbishop blesses the school’s second grade first Communion class. (Photo by Dennis Callahan/Catholic San Francisco)

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