ATLANTIC CITY — Clergy and community members want to bring the old St. Michael’s School on Mississippi Avenue out of its nearly 30-year dormancy.
The nine classrooms of the former kindergarten to eighth-grade school have been closed for decades, but the Rev. Jon Thomas, pastor of the Parish of Saint Monica, and members of the St. Michael’s Church Preservation Society want the rooms and former school offices to be rehabilitated and used by the church, the parish, the city and the neighborhood.
“Since I came to the parish two years ago, I have been intent on repurposing the old St. Michael’s School,” Thomas said Monday at the school. “This floor and the floor above us have only been used for storage since the school closed in 1988. Now, I want to bring some life back to it. We want the parish … to be a part of the (city’s) arts corridor.”
The classrooms, located above and around St. Michael’s Church, can be used by nonprofit, arts and educational organizations, and MudGirls Studios was the first group willing to make use of one, Thomas said.
“The better the condition of these two floors, the longer we can keep the church alive,” Thomas said.
MudGirls Studios is a nonprofit organization that designs and produces the annual commemorative Wedding of the Sea medallions.
MudGirls moved from the rectory to a former first-grade classroom on the second floor because four Franciscan nuns are converting the rectory into a convent and moving in July 31.
Harrah’s Resort paid for L.A. Glass and Door in Egg Harbor Township to open the windows in three of the classrooms on the second floor.
It would have been impossible for Dorrie Papademetriou, the founder and director of MudGirls, to operate in her 20-by-30-foot classroom space without open windows and fans. Window air-conditioning units have not been installed in the building.
“With Father Jon’s vision and his willingness to open the space to creativity, it (the St. Michael’s campus) can be the center of the community again,” Papademetriou said.
The old St. Michael’s School gymnasium became Dante Hall Theater of the Arts in 2003.
St. Michael’s Church came close to officially closing in 2015, but Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m every Sunday through Sept. 10, and the first Sunday of every month after that.
The next nonprofit group to move into one of the classrooms will be Dena Ferone and her Closet of Hope, which provides free professional dresswear for people in need.
Dominic Alcaro, owner of Barbera Seafood Market at Mississippi and Arctic avenues, said the Ducktown neighborhood is nothing without St. Michael’s. He is happy to hear efforts are being made to have arts and nonprofit groups occupy the old school.
“This is one of the greatest ideas ever. … It’s good for the community,” Alcaro said. “St. Michael’s has always been there for the people in Atlantic City.”
The the Rev. Jon Thomas said the immediate needs for the rehabilitation of St. Michael’s School are:
• An organization that wants any of the 50 free retro student desks from the 1960s and 1970s and will pick them up.
• A Dumpster if no one removes the student desks from the building.
• A donation of ceiling tiles to replace missing/broken tiles in the classrooms.
• Names of volunteers who want a Habitat for Humanity experience in Atlantic City, who have some trade experience with HVAC, plumbing, painting, etc., or who are willing to do general cleanup work in the classrooms.