BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. - The sounds and sights of St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis today are a world of difference from these eight years ago.
"The building's foundation is built on where Hurricane Camille's highest water point was, so the assumption was everyone was going to be safe and everything was going to be fine. Unfortunately, Katrina sat on top of us for a while and brought the water higher than we expected," said Erich Hoffer, dean of students at St. Stanislaus College.
The storm washed 30 feet of surge through the beach-front campus of the boarding school for high school boys, wiping out the bottom floor of the administration building and dormitory, destroying the dining hall and tearing up the athletic areas.
But eight years later, the last of those recovery projects are finally under way with a $5 million plan to be complete next summer.
"Hopefully a fully restored first floor, with president's office, admissions offices, finance offices, some classroom space hopefully, a recreational area for our borders, and a mall for all of our students," said Brother Francis David, the St. Stanislaus president. "It should be very nice."
Although it may have taken eight years to put Katrina's remnants to rest here, school leaders say putting the past behind them is in St. Stanislaus' D.N.A.
"We've withstood fire, we've withstood the plague, we've withstood the civil war,” said Hoffer. “Pretty sure we can handle another hurricane if we had to."
David said, "We are the traditional phoenix. We've come back from all sorts of events in our life over the last 160 years, and it’s our chance this time to bring Stanislaus a little bit closer to its full life again."
The school's running track is also currently being replaced, and a renovation of the upper floors of the dormitory are planned to start shortly.