MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) – Tuesday was a historic day for a school community that had its summer marked by tragedy.

After an explosion damaged Minnehaha Academy last month, upper school students went back to school at a brand new facility.

Some 350 students reported to their new campus in Mendota Heights. Contractors and volunteers repurposed the office building in only 15 days.

On Aug. 2, an apparent gas leak caused an explosion at the south Minneapolis Christian school. The community lost two beloved staff members: custodian John Carlson and receptionist Ruth Berg.

minnehaha academy explosion2 Minnehaha Academy Students Head Back To Class In New Facility

(credit: CBS)

Now, in the midst of the community’s pain, they’ve gotten some unexpected attention.

Students marveled Tuesday as they walked into their new building.

“I think if it would have been with any other community it would not have been as good of a recovery as it was,” said Minnehaha sophomore Andrew Karpenko.

And that may be safe to say according to the school’s president, Dr. Donna Harris.

“I saw this beautiful sign that our class of 2018 put on the fence at north campus, and it said ‘You can’t shake our foundation.'” Harris said. “Already, they are learning those lessons and experiencing what resilience really means and perseverance really means.”

As the students continue to learn the toughest of life’s lessons, the world was watching.

“I’ve received communications from Ecuador, Taiwan, many many of the states, from other independent schools and Christian schools and public schools, little first-graders…so people know the story of Minnehaha Academy,” Harris said.

In the four weeks since they lost their school, the Minnehaha Academy community has gained eight new students, as well as a lot of interest from outside parents.

“I think our admission people would kind of hesitate on the phone and say, ‘Have you been watching the news? Do you know what’s occurred?’ and they say things like, ‘Yeah, we do, but we’ve learned about your school and the tenacity and the vision for the future,'” Harris said.

It seems those watching didn’t see shambles, they saw strength.

Parents of students already at Minnehaha saying amidst the great loss, they are proud to see their kids learning the toughest of life’s lessons, grief and resilience; things that are tough to teach in the classroom.


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