Superintendent: Damage from Delta High School fire still being assessed

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Edie Williams and Chad Evans of ClaimPlus in Dallas, Texas, help school staff inventory fire damaged items at Delta High School Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, as school principal James Gloth watches. Student records, copy machines, and computers were among the items destroyed in the fire Friday. (Melissa Miller)

The extent of the damage from Friday's fire at Delta High School is yet to be determined, according to Delta superintendent Nate Crowden.

He will meet with insurance representatives and contractors Thursday to discuss what needs to be repaired and replaced and what that will cost. Crowden estimated the school's insurance deductible at around $5,000.

Early Tuesday a crew of insurance inventory specialists arrived from Dallas to help staff sort through the contents of the fire-damaged offices. Everything was taken out of the building Monday and stored in two trailers behind the school. Tuesday the items were sorted by what could still be used.

The suspected Delta High School arsonist is shown in this surveillance image provided by the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department. (submitted)

Student files and schedules for this year were destroyed, but information from past graduating classes was preserved on CDs, Crowden said.

Cleanup inside the school continued Tuesday as crews removed ceiling tiles and insulation damaged by fire and smoke. Computers were also being taken out of the school to be cleaned by an electronics company.

"We're taking it day to day," Crowden said. He hopes students can return to school Monday but said at this point he is not certain when the building will be ready.

After starting the school year Thursday, classes were called off Friday for all elementary and high school students.

"The state says we have to go 174 days no matter when we start or finish," Crowden said. Each day that school is not in session is treated like a snow day, he said.

"I think the kids are just eager to get back into school," Crowden said.

Jack Coomer, whose daughter is in the eighth grade at Delta, agreed.

"She was aggravated Friday morning," said Coomer, who owns Jax's Place restaurant in Delta. "We had about 20 kids in here on Friday, and they were mad. There was a first-grader who said she didn't understand why she had to stay home, since her school was fine."

Though the elementary building was not damaged, Crowden said, it wasn't financially feasible to have only half the district's students there because schools receive state funding based on attendance.

Mark Kneir said his son, a sophomore, is also frustrated with staying home this week.

"His biggest concern is how long they're going to have to go through the summer now," Kneir said.

While repairs are made to the office area, staff will work out of the teachers' lounge, Crowden said.

The Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department is continuing to investigate after the fire was determined Friday to be arson.

Crowden said he is certain whoever broke into the school Friday morning was looking for money. The school's safe, which had less than $1,000, was out in the middle of the office floor, he said.

"The handles were beat off it, but they couldn't get it open," Crowden said.

Cash for student activities also was taken from a classroom.

"It's very disappointing, being from here, it's a little more close to your heart," said Crowden, who is a graduate of Delta High School and has been with the district for 18 years.

The Missouri State Fire Marshal's office declined to release any details regarding its investigation.

The Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department has received few tips in the case, Lt. David James said.

Residents with information about the arson suspect are asked to call the sheriff's office at 243-3551 or the Missouri State Fire Marshal's Arson Hotline at 1-800-392-7766.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

324 N. Liberty St., Delta, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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