Big move at Rosati-Kain is more organized, less chaos

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org

With 80 volunteers gathered in the Rosati-Kain gymnasium for marching orders May 16, chief organizer Nancy Mueller described The Big Move as "organized chaos."

Indeed. Mueller had made plans for the group -- students, parents, teachers, staff, spouses and families -- to transfer the library (at least 6,000 titles) and chemistry lab from crammed quarters in Rosati-Kain's original 1920s building into the bright, airy space in the school's 12,000-square-foot addition.

Mueller also had drawn up plans to move the physics lab, computer lab and several classrooms from the old building's west side into east-end classrooms for storage. The west side needed to be a blank canvas for renovation -- phase two of a $4.5-million project to upgrade the 114-year-old school's facilities.

With so many moving parts and an indefinite time frame -- who knew if they'd even finish in one day? -- "organized chaos" seemed reasonable, but Mueller missed badly with that assessment.

"Chaos" was a no-show; nowhere to be found.

The moves proved to be orderly, well-executed and quick, too. The volunteers were virtually done by 11 a.m., just two-and-a-half hours after getting marching orders in the gym.

Crews only needed to unload a few more shopping carts -- Schnucks loaned 15 for the move -- and stack books on shelves in the new library ... er, "learning commons," as Rosati-Kain has dubbed it. (The "learning commons" will have a relaxing, coffee-shop feel, as opposed to the staid libraries of yesteryear.)

Mueller described the move as "fantastic," praising president Sister Joan Andert, SSND, and principal Elizabeth Ann Goodwin for their leadership and also the 20 faculty and staff who turned out to direct 60 volunteers.

"People are in the right places, so 'organized chaos' was more 'organized,'" said Mueller, the Rosati-Kain math teacher who developed the plan over a few weeks. "That was the plan."

Take the library, for instance. Student volunteers took books off shelves and placed them in shopping carts. Then, others pushed the carts to the elevator, where an operator transported them from the second floor to the first. Once the door opened on the ground level, another crew wheeled the carts into the new space where still another crew unloaded and stocked the shelves.

Moving the library was the most time-consuming process, but moving the physics lab into storage was the most physically taxing. The five biggest of the tables weighed about 200 pounds apiece -- thanks to hefty, chemical-resistant tops -- and were seven feet long, two feet deep and 30 inches high; each needed four men to guide on a dolly through doorways, with the guys ducking and straining to make it through. The smaller ones were no picnic, either -- just two feet shorter and 25 pounds lighter.

"It was heavy and really awkward," said Dan Schulte, husband of Rosati-Kain enrollment director Laura Schulte. Their sons, Ben and Joe, also helped. "It was tough, but I'm OK. I survived."

Mission accomplished there. Before the move, Sister Joan set a goal to be injury-free for the day. To that end, she stressed lifting with knees instead of backs, and the volunteers limbered up en masse before getting to work. Then, throughout the morning, Mueller reminded folks to take breaks and hydrate, always seeming to have a cold bottle of water handy.

With an ever-present clipboard, she went room-to-room to check on progress. Heavy-lifters moved the weighty physics tables, file cabinets, etc. Medium-lifters, mainly Rosati-Kain students, toted boxes, desk chairs and the like. Light-lifters carried lighter boxes, and others stripped walls of bulletin boards, signs, posters -- you name it -- to create the blank canvas.

"You guys are too efficient," Mueller said at one point.

Among volunteers were students from the Class of 2015. They came out after the end of classes three days previous and before graduation two days later.

"We were just in the neighborhood," class president Maggie Smith joked, adding seriously, "Even though we're not going to be able to use it next year, we have put time and money and effort into it. It's cool to be back."

Their return lasted for only half of a day, thanks to Mueller -- "She's a treasure," maintenance man Andy Anderson said -- with a big assist from God.

"The good Lord helps us get it all done," Rosati-Kain parent Keith Modde said as he wheeled a dolly of file cabinets out of a classroom.

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