Preparing for back to school at in Horsham has resulted in tears, lots of sweat and continued renovation costs following a earlier this month.
While Principal Nona Melnick said the Upland Avenue educational facility for children ages 18 months to 6 years old will be ready for the 90 youngsters’ return on Sept. 5, some portions of the school will be off limits, at least for the time being.
The library in particular, the room that endured the brunt of the Aug. 11 overnight fire, is unable to be used and all of the school’s 2,000 books previously housed there have either burned or smelled “smoky,” according to Melnick. Despite the loss, Melnick is hopeful.
“They started a book drive already,” Melnick said, adding that four cartons of books have been donated so far. “We, as a school, feel confident that we are rebuilding.”
That was apparent during a recent tour that Melnick provided to Patch. New ceiling tiles had been installed throughout the building, replacing others that had been damaged, or wreaked of smoke. Fresh, blue carpet lined the school’s six classrooms and floors had been polished and waxed. “Everything” in the classrooms was washed and any soft items that children may have played with were discarded, Melnick said.
Humidifiers were busily humming along to suck up any lingering remnants of the smoke-filled building and, according to Melnick, had been doing so 24-7 since the fire.
“Every second dollars are adding up,” Melnick said of the renovation costs, which she said are ongoing. “It was smoky. You couldn’t breathe anything.”
In Melnick’s office, which is situated beside the library, a huge hole is apparent in the ceiling and a large trash can has been positioned to collect any rain that may fall. Her desk and other equipment have been moved on other side of the hole to prevent damage.
“The roof is totally gone,” Melnick said, crediting fire crews for their speedy response and their decision to cut a hole in the roof to allow the flames to burn upward, instead of spreading to the rest of the building, or the connected . “You couldn’t imagine if it was another five minutes.”
Aside from the plywood covering in place of the roof, badly burned library, charred outdoor playground equipment and melted gym windows, the school seems to have fared relatively well from the blaze, which fire officials said began in an outdoor shed and spread to the school.
Officials have said that the fire, as well as a pair of dumpster fires at about the same time on Aug. 11 and another dumpster fire at on Aug. 16 are under investigation.
Horsham Township Police Lt. Jon Clark said all of the fires are listed as "suspicious" and have not been classified as arson.
"One would think it's all the same person," Clark said, adding that officials have not yet found concrete proof linking the fires.
Yet, even as the school waits for insurance coverage to kick in and a final tally of all the necessary repairs, Melnick said “We didn’t miss a beat.”
The school, which rents its space from the Horsham Bible Church, relocated the final weeks of its Camp Discovery program to the church side as repairs were carried out on the building.
Melnick said she’s planning a brainstorming session in September for ideas on moving forward with the library and already 22 parents have expressed interest in helping.
“Everybody’s been upbeat,” Melnick said. “We’re survivors and we will move on.”