by Lisa Tome
Six days after fire broke out at Kenmore Elementary School, principal Joshua Mangold was admittedly, emotional.
The outpouring of community support in the wake of the fire has been overwhelming.
A building closure came in the wake of a fire at the school which occurred on Friday, March 24 about 5:30 p.m.
According to investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the fire was reported just prior to the school carnival. The school had a power outage. Mangold reset a breaker and unknowingly reset a breaker to the stove in a kindergarten classroom. The breaker is normally turned off for safety reasons.
Unbeknown to the principal, a burner on the range was turned on and items stored on top of the range ignited, causing fire in Amy Heckert's kindergarten classroom. "My first thought was get the fire out. My second thought was get the school open," he said. "The fire companies were fantastic, very professional," he said. "They were phenomenal."
The fire interrupted plans for the Kenmore Carnival, a longstanding community event which has been held for decades. By Saturday morning, 12-15 school system maintenance workers were at the school. Heckert, and other teachers and staff were also there working.
"People brought us lunch on their own dime," said Mangold. A friend of Heckert also got commitments of donations after setting up a gofundme account. The Elkton Moose Lodge gave the school a "significant" contribution. That organization has contributed to the school in the past yet helped again this school year. "Ninety-eight percent of the damage was her classroom and the adjoining room," he said.
That meant that a replacement classroom was needed.
Kenmore had recently freed up space converting a computer lab which they had planned to use as a student area. That former computer lab was turned into a classroom. Retired teachers and former staff also donated classroom materials.
"It has been overwhelming the support within the system and outside the system,' he said.
He said the school system supervisors and associate superintendents were also at the school helping out. "The number of parents and employees and others in the school system. So many people offered to help. It's too many to name," he said.
"The silver lining during this unfortunate incident is seeing the community come together - having people come and say 'what can I do for you?'," he said.
"We will replace everything but it takes time. Seeing people cleaning up with black hands and black arms. It was so nice to see that. We were able to turn around a kindergarten classroom in eight hours," he said.
School closed and the staff worked at the Carver Center on Monday, March 27. Air quality checks were completed and the staff was released back to the school at noon.
"It's humbling. This is a very tight community. The way the community values this school and it's place in the community is humbling. The community has embraced us and that speaks to the value they place on education. To see people come together it's appreciated,” said Mangold.
Tuesday students returned to class.
"We got to see the pay off on Tuesday. The kids lit up when they came back to school and it was like nothing happened," he said.
Since the fire was accidental, Mangold, who is in his third year at Kenmore, said precautions have been taken in other buildings to make sure the same issue doesn't occur again. There are other buildings built around the same time where an incident similar to the one at Kenmore could occur.
"We are inspected every year but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. There were some lessons learned," he said. "I feel some measures are now in place."
The heavily damaged classroom will be worked on and ready to reopen this school year. Mangold said he's uncertain whether the kindergarten class will move back to their original room or remain where they are.
Mangold said he is leaving the decision to reschedule Kenmore carnival up to the PTO which spends a year organizing it. "We will finish the raffles," said Mangold.