By Leonard Gildarie
For the second time this year, fire has struck at a West Demerara public school, this time affecting over 600 students.
Yesterday, education officials scrambled to find alternative measures for the students of the L’Aventure Secondary School, Canal Number One, West Bank Demerara.
The fire completely destroyed the middle section of the school, including the administrative offices, a number of classrooms and the Home Economics Department.
This setback came almost six months after a similar fire destroyed the middle section of the newly built, $60M La Parfaite Harmonie Primary School, located just half mile away. Repairs are still to start on that school.
Just two days after the new school year began, worrying parents mainly from the new housing schemes, bordering Canal Number One, supported several fire trucks and a small tender from Wales Sugar Estate that had raced to the scene and managed to contain the blaze to the middle section.
An exploding gas cylinder within the Home Economics Department sent the crowds scurrying to safety. The Canals Polder road was blocked to traffic for several hours.
According to Anthony ‘Tony’ Arthur, who runs a shop next to the school, he saw the fire and raced over to school and attempted to break into the Home Economics
Department from where the smoke was coming.
It was shortly before 08:00 hrs and a number of teachers and several students were already in school. However, the blaze was already too strong and the students and the teachers were evacuated.
Headmistress, Althea Daniels-Stuart and the more than 30 teachers, along with students watched helplessly as the blaze destroyed the middle section of the school.
A fire tender from Wales Estate was rushed to the area but got stuck in a side dam, forcing several residents to help extricate it. Another three tenders from the Guyana Fire Service were also dispatched to the scene.
It is believed that the cause of the fire may have been electrical. Critical registration records were also destroyed leaving school officials with the uphill task of reconstructing data for students.
There were unconfirmed reports that an air-condition unit had been left on overnight and this may have been the cause of the fire.
But Chief Education Officer, Olato Sam, said that it was too early to make any determination. It was only recently that several windows of the school were replaced and repairs effected to the school.
Sam also confirmed that Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, was apprised
of the situation. She has ordered that all stops be pulled out to find alternative measures to accommodate the students.
A meeting was set to be held yesterday with parents, education officials and the school’s staffers to decide on temporary measures. A “shift” system was not ruled out. Region Three officials including Chairman, Julius Faerber, were also on the scene.
Government has since confirmed that students will restart school on Monday.
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