School Restoration Update

Saint Philip the Apostle Church and School Plan – January 20, 2018

On January 11, 2018 our St. Philip school building experienced a fire. To date the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

As we have now learned the fire and smoke damage was much more extensive than originally thought:

• The Kaleidoscope wing, where the fire originated, needs to be completely demolished.
• The main school corridor which houses grades 1, 2 & 3, the offices, and the auditorium received the greatest amount of smoke and soot damage. While extensive restoration work has been done there is much more that needs to be accomplished in that area. The ongoing work entails meeting codes and laws specific to school buildings and the safety of children.
• Teams of up to 40 workers have been working twelve hour shifts seven days a week on our behalf. Their accomplishments are truly amazing.
• The pre-K wing and Middle School wing have been cleaned but still await results from inspection and testing and await approval before children can be brought back into those spaces.

During the last week, our children have been educated online, however our number one priority has been returning them to a classroom setting as soon as possible.

Many plans have been explored and exhaustively investigated but, ultimately, were not feasible.

For example, within hours of the fire Bishop Serratelli telephoned me offering our neighboring John Paul II Center classroom space for our use. After days and nights of work and investigation we learned that because the building has not been operational as a school for 10 years, we are not able to move there at this point. However, it remains under investigation as an option for the future. Another situation of having to wait for official information.

Other Catholic and public schools in Clifton were explored but to no avail for various reasons, all beyond our control.


As of January 19, 2018 we have a plan. This plan may change because of circumstances beyond our control such as codes, testing and inspections.
We already shared in the January 18th update, that home online instruction would continue through this coming week.
The following January 19 plan is projected to be in place for 90 days.

The plan, beginning January 29th, will be for students to return to classroom instruction with their teachers:

IF the pre-K and Middle School wings are approved for use, the pre-K and kindergarten will return to their normal classroom space.
• Grades 1, 2, and 3 whose classrooms need ongoing restoration cannot be used.
• The children in grades 1-3 will be relocated, with their clean desks and new equipment, to the middle school wing classrooms along with grades 4 and 5.

Grades 6, 7 & 8 will be bused to and from our property to Mary Help of Christians Academy, a Catholic preparatory high school in the Salesian tradition, in North Haledon. Along with their teachers they will be educated in their own wing of the building, in individual classrooms. We are very grateful to Sr. Marissa, and the Salesians sisters for accommodating us so graciously.

We will be having a parent meeting to share how we will move forward as a school community next Sunday, January 28 in the St. Philip Church.


Restoration is in process for the Molloy Center which includes Cerullo and Marion Halls. Returning children to a classroom setting for our School and Religious Education classes education is the priority. The timeline at this point for the work that needs to be accomplished in the Molloy Center is not fully determined. The contents of the Kaleidoscope wing including all parish organization closets are unsalvageable. Remember, it is against the law for anyone except authorized personnel to enter our buildings at this time.

I recognize that parish organizations are experiencing hardship without space to gather. We are studying what is possible and will communicate with you when more information is available to us.

Remember that this process of coming up with best solutions to an unforeseen event has been frustrating and difficult for everyone involved.

You can help with your prayer for wisdom, patience and endurance. Thank you for your support. Be assured of our continued prayer for you.
We are Blessed with God’s presence and with the gifts and talents of all, as continue our mission of doing Christ’s Work with faith, in hope and for love.

Yours in Faith,
/s Rev. Joseph J. Garbarino