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October fire destroyed two classrooms, damaged others

Glen Edwards School still smoky
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Although almost four months have passed since fire ripped through the B-wing at Glen Edwards Middle School, the smell of smoke still remains in the wing’s four classrooms. The fire occurred in the early hours last Oct. 10, completely destroying classroom ten and 11 and smoke damage to rooms eight and nine, according to Cathy Allen, Western Placer Unified School District assistant superintendent of facilities and maintenance. The fire’s cause is still “undetermined and unable to rule out human cause,” according to Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt. “We haven’t found anything that would say it was arson but that has not been ruled out,” Whitt said. “It could be anything from anyone purposely trying to set the fire to accidental malicious mischief.” The News Messenger toured the damaged wing Monday. It has been “business as usual” since the fire, said Michael Doherty, the school’s principal. “It was tough at first because of moving classrooms and adjusting the teachers to new classrooms,” Doherty said. “The students were probably the first ones to bounce back.” Doherty described the weeks after the fire as “hectic” and an “emotional” time for the teachers. “The funny thing about the students is they are very resilient, especially this age group. It doesn’t take much to get them back on track,” Doherty said. “Fortunately, it (the fire) was after hours and no one was here during the time it happened and there were no injuries.” There is “not much talk of the fire these days,” Doherty said, although “every once in awhile, somebody will ask when they will start rebuilding.” All four rooms in the wing are unusable right now but there were enough empty classrooms to house teachers displaced by the fire, according to Allen. Structural work would have to be done to rooms eight and nine to make the rooms safe, Allen said. The ceilings and carpet have been removed from both room eight and room nine, and the rooms smell like smoke, according to Allen. The damage from room 11 extended to the girls’ bathroom, where the sinks and toilets have been removed, according to Allen. All that remains of room 11 is the wood framing, door and I-beam that runs along the roof. The smell of smoke is the strongest in room 11. The fire also damaged a storage container and shed, according to previous News Messenger reports. Allen said cleanup went on “for several weeks” after the fire, which was performed by JM Environmental. “The initial cleanup was removal of burnt items but you can’t just throw them away,” Allen said. “Everything had to be catalogued and photographed.” Items from the classroom were catalogued and photographed for insurance purposes, according to Allen. Examples given by Allen of burnt items included digital cameras, books, computers and personal items. The work performed by JM Environmental has been invoiced of a total $192,585, which Allen said would be covered by funds advanced by the insurance company. The district has reimbursed teachers for personal items lost in the fire as well as instructional materials, according to Allen, but a dollar amount for those items wasn’t available by press time. The district’s two insurance agencies have so far provided $476,672 in advanced money for costs associated with the fire, according to Allen. The goal is to have the classrooms in wing A reconstructed by the next school year, which Allen said could cost between $600,000 and $800,000 to repair. It isn’t known yet if insurance will cover the cost of reconstructing the classrooms, and if that isn’t the case, Allen said, the district could apply to the state for facilities hardship. That means the state would cover half of the remaining balance not covered by insurance. Building won’t start from scratch, though. “Things have to stay where they are. We can’t move the walls,” Allen said. Along with the repairs will be “upgrades” to the wing,” according to Allen. “For ten and 11, it would be new HVAC equipment and a new method of delivering air called air diffusion,” Allen said. Rainforth Grau Architects is currently working on plans for the building, which Allen said will need to be brought up to code for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. The plans will then be sent to the Division of State Architects for approval, Allen said. “While the plans are being drawn up, we will do some RFQ’s (request for qualifications) for a builder,” Allen said. “We will pick the top three and then give each of them a set of the plans and have them give us a guaranteed maximum price.” Allen would like construction to start before summertime hits to take advantage of low construction costs.