TOWNSEND -- Passersby and parishioners alike are likely to notice a new trailer being erected off to the side of St. John the Evangelist Parish. Once complete, the temporary structure is going to be utilized to hold religious education classes for the child members of the church. The triple-wide, handicap-accessible trailer was specially ordered from Williams Scotsman, Inc.; the company, which specializes in temporary and mobile structures, was suggested by another parish and approved by the archdiocese, according to the church's business manager, Susan Tocci.
The building will temporarily replace the church's former activity center, which was condemned following a fire on Dec. 29.
"We've been in the process of working with insurance ... on the best way of rebuilding the (activity center). But since it can't be built very quickly, we needed to get something there to continue with our religious education classes," said Tocci. "(The trailer) meets all the building codes and the correct personnel have signed off on it."
Staff members are hoping the new activity center will be ready by October 2013, according to the Rev. Jeremy St. Martin; the temporary structure will be used in the interim.
The new building's apparently small stature is deceptive from the outside; inside, it holds six spacious classrooms and two bathrooms. In fact, the building is capable of hosting more students than its predecessor, according to religious education coordinator Kathie Twombly. Four of the new rooms can fit 15 students, one can fit 12, and the final room can fit 17. The old activity center could only fit 12 students per room, the reason being it was not designed for the purpose.
"It was (originally) a house," said Twombly.
The church's religious education classes serve ages from first grade to 10th grade, and generally follows the timeline of the public school year, according to church staff.
"But we're starting a little later this year," said St. Martin.
Church staff is hopeful that the structure will be available for use by Sept. 23.
From when classes reconvened following the fire until the end of the program in June, religious-education classes were being held in the church itself; the decision to group the classes together was an example of staff members having to think on their toes to keep the program alive until the end of the session.
"The fire was obviously a surprise," said St. Martin. "We weren't prepared, but we had to make the best of it."
Now everybody is once again looking forward to having age-appropriate class division.
"On a long-term basis, it's not good to have second graders and in with seventh-graders," said Tocci.
"Each (age group) has different needs," said Twombly.
As of Sept. 7, the church had 314 registered students for religious-education courses beginning in the fall, according to Twombly. Generally, they expect to have 400 to 450 students. The classes are divided into three different time sessions with eight classes being held at a time. Two of the classes will be held in the church's meeting hall, which has a divider to separate it into two rooms.
Twombly said that she hopes parishioners driving by who see the structure being erected will see it as a reminder to sign their children up for the classes sooner rather than later, but there is no official registration deadline.
"We will never turn anyone away," she said.
Contact information for staff members is listed at townsendcatholic.org.