Fire at school ‘heartbreaking’
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.