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Students return to St. Monica School after fire burned most of the building

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UPDATE (September 14, 2015) –  St. Monica School is back in session today after being cancelled last week due to a fire. The sanctuary is still in bad shape, so mass will continue to be held in the church’s gym.

INDIANAPOLIS (September 9, 2015) - Investigators ruled a fire at a northwest side church and school accidental, saying they couldn't rule out an electrical cause.

Indianapolis Fire Department crews spent Wednesday morning fighting a church and school fire on Michigan Road. Crews responded to a call about heavy smoke in a building in the 6100 block of North Michigan Road just before 4 a.m. Wednesday.

When they arrived on scene, firefighters found that the vestibule connecting St. Monica Catholic Church to its school was fully involved in flames. It collapsed shortly after firefighters arrived.

“We’re just kind of in a state of shock right now,” said Father Todd Goodson.  “Catholics and Christians, we respond to tragedy with community support and unity.  So that’s what’s happening here.”

Goodson says that was evident hours after the fire, when double the normal gathering came to attend morning mass in the church’s gym.

“Thankful that nobody was hurt,” Goodson said.  “We’ll move on from here.  It’s a building and we can build a building and keep going.”

Saint Monica has a diverse congregation of roughly 10,000 parishioners.

“I’m entirely confident that the parish community is going to come together,” Tobin said.  Aand I’m here to let them know that the Archdiocese has got its arms around them.”

St. Monica School has roughly 425 students in pre-K through eighth grade. Classes were canceled for Wednesday. Morning mass continued as scheduled although it was moved to the gymnasium. There were six inches of water near the church altar and some hallways were flooded.

Shanette Gibbs and her 8-year-old daughter Micah, who attends the school, came to the scene hours after the fire to see the extent of the damage.

“We’re just still in shock and hopefully they’ll get the repairs done and the kids will be back to school and back to class as soon as possible,” Gibbs said.  “Fortunately because of the technology, there are things that we know she can do at home and not get behind on her school work.”

If school has to be cancelled beyond Thursday, Saint Monica leaders say other area churches have offered to provide classroom space until students can return.

Other churches have also offered to host two weddings which were scheduled at Saint Monica this Saturday.

Firefighters initially had trouble with a fire hydrant that had been hit by a car and was never repaired. This caused issues when crews needed additional water.

Damage was estimated at $400,000.

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