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First day back to school goes smoothly for students displaced by fire

Colonial Beach School Board held their organizational meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 5:30 p.m. Tim Trivett was re-elected chairman, Vicky Roberson vice chair and Tracey Tunstall remained School Board Clerk.

Wednesday’s meeting fell on the eve of the first day back to school for elementary students since Christmas break. The Jan. 5 fire at the old abandoned two-story building on the elementary campus delayed school by a week and a half, while school officials made arrangements to house K-5 students temporarily.

Students attended school at the Oak Grove Baptist Church. The Church has generously donated space to the students to keep the K-5 students in the same building.

Superintendent Kathleen Beane told the board in her report, “The elementary school opened its doors at Oak Grove Baptist Church. The students, teachers and staff arrived on time. Breakfast and lunch was served, and everyone is busy catching up on academics.”

Beane told that board that she had spoken with students who said they are happy to be back together under one roof in a clean and comfortable environment. “Our sincere thanks cannot be expressed enough, to the members of this church with their open hands and open hearts, for allowing us to use their facility.”

At the Wednesday meeting Elementary School Principal Mary Fisher told the board, “Today went phenomenal.”

Fisher said there were only minor hiccups, which staff had anticipated. Buses ran smoothly. A few parents who were unsure of bus stop locations dropped off kids at the High School on First Street. Staff made sure they were picked up by the elementary buses and transported to the church on time.

Beane reported to the board, “The onsite investigation of the state police concerning the origin of the fire was completed on Monday, but the entire investigation is still open. I will notify you once a report has been received.”

Fences were erected around the old burned-out building and surrounding buildings that are in the potential collapse zone. Officials cannot make any decisions on what to do with the old structure until all investigations are complete, and the insurance company has finished their work. Furthermore, the insurance adjusters will not make any decision on claim payment until the fire investigation is complete.

Beane told the board, “We have not received any information from Vacore, our insurance company, as they are awaiting information from the investigation, as well.”

Only after these steps are complete, can the school bring in building inspectors and engineers to assess the damage and determine what options the school has for the building. School Board officials have declined to make any more comments on what plans they feel are best, until after they have had a chance to hear from qualified professionals.

The school has hired a consultant to work with the insurance company and to protect the schools’ interests and ensure a smooth timely payment of the insurance claim.

Beane reported to the board Wednesday that Metrocast Communications would be installing internet service on the following day at the church for students and staff. “They will also be connecting the school board office on Friday, as we have also been without internet or network connectivity since the fire,” Beane added.

—Linda Farneth

 

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