Westbrook High School, damaged by fire over the summer, could reopen next month

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The work on the third floor of the school is almost finished. The ceiling tiles should be installed with the windows, which were out of stock. Contribution / Westbrook School Department

Westbrook High School is expected to reopen for students by the end of November, according to Superintendent Peter Lancia.

Twenty-two students in an alternative learning program, however, will continue to meet at the community center for the remainder of the school year due to code violations found in their classrooms after a fire in July at the high school. No one was injured in the fire.

Most high school students started the year remotely due to extensive water damage in the building caused by fire sprinklers. The cost of repairing the damage has not been determined, Lancia said, but work is on track for completion in November.

“They call it a ‘major loss’, which is certainly over a million damage, but we do not yet have details on local costs,” Lancia told the American Journal on Monday, saying it was expecting a call that day. from the insurance company. Contacted on Wednesday morning, Lancia said it had no news from the company yet.

The top floor of the wing where the fire started is 90% complete, awaiting ceiling tiles and windows. The second floor is about 60% complete, with electrical work going on in the ceilings. The first floor still has plasterboard walls and no ceilings and needs the most work.

As work crews repair the damage caused by the fire, they also correct the many minor code violations found throughout the school.

The neighborhood hopes to bring back students before the end of November, when parts of the building will be completely finished, but Lancia said it would have a better idea of ​​that timeline once the third floor is completed.

Firefighters and code enforcement officials will have the final say on when students are allowed to re-enter the building.

Code violations found in the classrooms of the COMPASS alternative learning program, in a separate building that was not damaged by the fire, are too costly to repair, Lancia said. The administration is looking for an alternative space, but students in the Creating Opportunities Through Multiple Pathways for Academic and Social Success program will be taught at the community center for the remainder of the year.

According to a report from the code enforcement office, the converted classrooms did not meet building code requirements for classrooms and lacked proper water supply, despite having plumbing.

Lancia said COMPASS moved to this building around five to seven years ago and cannot remember when the structure was built.

At-risk students in the program thrive in a confined environment that is separate from the current school building, so finding a separate space for them is crucial, he said, and a permanent place at the community center is one possibility.

Due to the high school fire, the community center already accommodates about 60 students from four special education programs and the COMPASS program. These classes went well, according to co-director Patrick Colgan and teacher Sarah Anthony.

“A lot of our alternative education is really focused on relationship building, which we couldn’t do well remotely,” said Anthony, who works with COMPASS students.

The community center space – four classrooms, a kitchen converted to an office, and an overflow room for students participating in distance learning courses – made a big difference for students, she said.

Many of the areas, she said, are larger than what students are used to and the services near the community center are great resources.

“The children seem happier. During the pandemic, a lot of them struggled to go to school and I felt like they were losing hope, but it came back, ”Anthony said.

Wiring in the ceilings is fixed, as opposed to the previous mess of wires and code violations found after the July fire. Contribution / Westbrook School Department


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