Fire at school ‘heart­break­ing’

The Press - - News - Tom Kitchin

A ‘‘dev­as­tated’’ Can­ter­bury pri­mary school aims to re­open on Mon­day after two class­rooms were de­stroyed in a sus­pi­cious blaze.

Fire­fight­ers were called to Ka­iapoi North School, north of Christchurch, about 1.45am yes­ter­day.

The blaze gut­ted two class­rooms and a cloak­room be­tween them.

Ka­iapoi North School prin­ci­pal

Ja­son Miles said the blaze was ‘‘heart­break­ing’’.

He es­ti­mated the cost to re­place the two class­rooms would be more than $250,000, but ex­pected it would be cov­ered by in­sur­ance.

Staff and stu­dents had lost many be­long­ings and work that money could not be re­placed.

The two lost class­rooms were re­fur­bished at the end of last year as part of a wider school up­grade.

‘‘We’re dev­as­tated, ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated, for the chil­dren in there, the teach­ers and the com­mu­nity,’’ Miles said. The school roll was ‘‘bulging’’ with 560 pupils. The dam­aged class­rooms housed 50 year 3 and 4 pupils, he said. The school was closed yes­ter­day and to­day but could re­open on Mon­day. ‘‘We’re wait­ing to see what the in­ves­ti­ga­tion holds and how much we can clean up.’’

Miles said there was no more class­room space, so the af­fected pupils would have to move to the li­brary, mu­sic room or hall, which could af­fect those ser­vices. The school would dis­cuss re­place­ment ideas with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion in the com­ing weeks, he said.

About 40 fire­fight­ers bat­tled the blaze, which was be­ing treated as sus­pi­cious.

Ka­iapoi vol­un­teer fire brigade deputy chief fire of­fi­cer Matt McPhee said "noth­ing was sal­vage­able’’ when crews ar­rived. ‘‘The main task, be­cause the build­ing was so badly dam­aged, was to pro­tect the rest of the struc­tures to con­tain the fire,’’ he said.

A nearby res­i­dent said he saw peo­ple with fire­works at the school about mid­night.

A po­lice spokesman said po­lice had dis­cov­ered a per­son of in­ter­est from CCTV footage but were yet to iden­tify them. In­quiries will con­tinue to­day.

Fire­fight­ers were called yes­ter­day in the early hours. Crews fo­cused on con­tain­ing the sus­pi­cious fire to pro­tect the rest of the school.

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