Fire shuts down Boardman school

An early morning fire has closed school for the rest of the year for Sam Boardman Elementary School students.

HERMISTON — An early morning fire at Sam Boardman Elementary School has forced district officials to cancel school for the remaining 10 days of the school year.

The fire is not suspicious.

The fire, which started at around 4 a.m. Monday, caused damage to the library, a work room, and at least one classroom, as well as structural damage to the 53,125-square-foot building from the heat.

Due to the extent of the damage, district officials decided to close school at Sam Boardman for the remainder of the year. The Oregon Department of Education has approved an emergency school calendar change. Sam Boardman Elementary students had already exceeded the required instructional hours for kindergarten through third grade for the year.

School and district staff helped make phone calls to parents through a phone tree, in conjunction with Mid Columbia Bus Company, to put out word of the fire this morning.

However, the other schools in the district will continue on schedule through the last day of school on June 6. A school barbecue at Sam Boardman on Thursday also will still occur, just outside the building and on June 6.

The fire is believed to have been started by a heating unit near the library and work room, said Superintendent Mark Burrows. The fire burned hot, and got up into the building's attic, forcing fire fighters from Boardman and Hermiston to cut a hole in the school's roof to fight the flames and release the smoke.

"The fire alarm went off and the fire doors closed, just like they were supposed to," Burrows said. "We really want to thank the Boardman and Hermiston fire departments for all their hard work."

Burrows said he can't remember there ever being a fire at a Morrow County school in recent history.

There is a significant amount of smoke and water damage to numerous classrooms, the kitchen and gymnasium. The cost of the damage has not yet been determined, as an insurance official was expected to arrive later today for an inspection of the school, said Assistant Superintendent Wade Smith. However, Smith said the damage is "significant," with about 20 percent of the school damaged by fire, and more than 50 percent by water and smoke.

Despite the significant damage, district officials said they're hoping to have the repairs made this summer and have the school up and running by the end of August for the start of the new school year. A contractor out of Hood River — Cooper Construction — that specializes in fire restoration is expected to meet with district officials Tuesday and begin work on repairs as soon as possible, Smith said.

An emergency board meeting set for Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the district office in Lexington will help create that timeline.

District officials will meet with Sam Boardman staff Tuesday, Burrows said, and a temporary office for Sam Boardman will be set up at nearby Windy River Elementary with updated information for Sam Boardman parents.

The 318 kindergarten through third grade students at Sam Boardman had already completed the majority of their curriculum for the year, and benchmark tests also are finished, Smith said. Most of the teachers were basically tying up loose ends with school for the year, Burrows said.

The Head Start program housed at Sam Boardman had already finished up their school year, Smith said. However, the migrant program still had a few days left of school and has been cancelled for the rest of the year.

The Migrant Summer School Program that was supposed to be at Sam Boardman this summer will now be held at Windy River Elementary.

Parents and community members can find updates on this incident on the Morrow County School District Web site, www.morrow.k12.or.us, throughout the week.

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