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Hoven students begin classes in former hospital; experience good for some, strange for others

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HOVEN, South Dakota — Students in the northern South Dakota town of Hoven who lost their school to a fire in the spring have started fall classes in a former hospital. It's a good experience for some and a strange one for others.

The school district is holding classes in the former Holy Infant Hospital while it rebuilds the junior and senior high school that was destroyed in a late May blaze. Classes for the 57 students began Tuesday, according to the American News and KEVN-TV.

"I'm just glad that the kids have a building to go to school in," parent and substitute teacher Lori Sautner said.

Senior Tara Heuer said some in her class were worried after the fire about not being together for their final year.

"We have been together forever, it seems like," she said. "Most of us have been together since kindergarten, so it would be weird splitting up and going to different schools."

Some students said it is a bit strange to go to school in an old hospital.

"It's sort of freaky because you don't know what happened here," eighth-grader Tracie Leach said.

Junior Autumn Simon said her mother was born in the building, and eighth-grader Casey Leach said, "In the bathrooms, there's bathtubs, and in the classrooms there's sinks and stuff."

The hospital was started by Catholic nuns in 1943. It closed in 2010. The building is across the street from Hoven's elementary school.

"It looked like an old, run-down hospital," Superintendent Pat Jones said of his first visit to the building. "Certainly, the rooms were there, but there was lots of equipment in the rooms that had not been used for a while and a lot of stuff just put in rooms to store. It really presented itself as a building with an unknown future and offered us a great opportunity, but also, a lot of work."

Necessary renovations were completed over the summer, with help from community volunteers.

"They're trying really hard to make it feel like a school, and I'm pretty sure it is going to work," Senior Abby Simon said.

The state fire marshal's office was not able to determine the cause of the fire because of the extensive amount of damage, but authorities believe it to be accidental.

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