Pupils of St Pius X School in New Plymouth were stoked about the opening of their school’s new hall on the grounds of the old church that was gutted by fire three years ago.

Principal Anna Wormald said the children were very excited to have a place where they can gather during assembly and Monday morning prayer.

“They are very excited about the prospect of it and to be able to use it in a variety of ways. Currently, we’ve been having our prayer and assembly outside with children sitting out on the hard concrete. They’ll be looking forward to the luxury of being inside,” she said.

The hall was opened and blessed on February 24. It has one big hall and three rooms to the side for a kitchen, storage and toilet.

“The hall is going to help the school significantly because we haven’t had a place to gather as a whole school community for three years since the church burnt down,” Mrs Wormald said.

“We’ve been using a classroom. However, to do that, we had to empty the classroom of all the desk and chairs so we can fit in together. But it limited the number of parents involved as well,” she added.

The new hall is named Philomena Hall as a nod to the old St Philomena church.

Mrs Wormald said the school also had a special prayer table crafted out of the wood from the old church.

“We are trying to incorporate some of those aspects of the church into the hall as well,” she said.

The building of the school hall was funded by the Palmerston North diocese. Partial funding also came from the insurance on the old church.

With the amalgamation of four parishes into the Catholic Parish of New Plymouth, St Philomena parishioners (Brooklands) now go to St Joseph’s church for Mass.

Mass had been celebrated at the school on Fridays in one of the classrooms. “That will be (celebrated) in the hall from now on,” Mrs Wormald said.

A fire gutted 50-year-old St Philomena’s church in January, 2014. The school’s library was also destroyed. The school was using the church for morning prayers and assemblies.

A woman was charged with arson, but the charge was later dismissed after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove her involvement in the fire and there was also not enough evidence to suggest that the fire had been started deliberately in the first place.

What was left of the church was demolished in July, 2014.