09/03/09 — School set with new unit after July fire

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School set with new unit after July fire

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 3, 2009 1:46 PM

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Todd Anderson, Wayne Country Day School headmaster, stands outside the preschool building damaged by a July 3 fire. A modular unit is being readied for a preschool class, while other students have been given space in other areas of the school.

Two months after a fire claimed the preschool building at Wayne Country Day School, a modular unit is being readied for occupancy by as early as next week.

Students from four classrooms were displaced by the July 3 fire, which is still being investigated by police, said Todd Anderson, headmaster.

"It started where there was a cabinet with chemicals," he said, pointing to an area near an entrance. "It flashed all the way through."

The interior does not appear to be irreparable, but the extent of the damage by soot and smoke rendered the premises uninhabitable, Anderson said.

"Hopefully we're going to tear this thing down shortly," he said. "No way I'm ever going to use this building ever again."

The school's insurance company initially ordered a "partial demolition," the headmaster said. But that later changed.

"There's more structural damage than we thought," he said. "What's really sad, I told the teachers, under no circumstances, anything that was in this building the day of the fire, nothing can come out. It all has to be destroyed."

The situation sent school officials scrambling to ready substitute homes for preschool students -- 21/2 -3 K, 4K and pre-K -- by the start of classes Aug. 17.

The Pre-K class has occupied the school's "little library," while the 4K class was given a classroom next to the kindergarten room. The 21/2 -3K class took over a Spanish classroom until the modular unit is in place.

Rather than dwell on the negative aspects, Anderson has tried to take a more philosophical approach.

"The whole irony to this situation is in the original plan when they built the school in 1971 -- which called for this to be a boarding school -- it had a concourse" from the high school wing over to the soccer field, he said. "In essence, destroying this (preschool) building was going to happen anyway."

On Wednesday, workers were putting the finishing touches on the new trailer, fitting it for plumbing and electricity, readying it for the 13 students who will soon call it home. Plans are to obtain an occupancy permit by Friday, Anderson said.

"Hopefully by Tuesday we'll be ready to rock and roll in here," he said.