The Roberts, Wis., elementary school that was seriously damaged by an arson fire will reopen in time for the start of school on Sept. 3, according to district officials.
A community meeting will be held at the High School Commons at 6:30 p.m. to provide updates on the reconstruction, and attendees will be able to view and provide input on proposed changes to the facility.
Since the fire, students have been finishing out their school year at the Rolling Ridges Girl Scout troop's Panther Camp.
"We even have a camp song that we sing once in a while," said Principal Steve Sanders. "We're doing what we need to do."
The students have embraced the outdoors, but many admit the ticks have been a pesky problem that have literally gotten under some peoples' skin. Parents have been asked to check their children once the school bus drops them off, and school officials are using the insects to instruct.
"They know the difference between boy and girl tick -- know deer tick, bear tick, "Sanders explained. "There's been some education with that."
Meanwhile, the district has been working with ServiceMaster, a company specializing in fire damage cleanup, and contractors -- including Wold Architects and Engineers and McKinstry -- to begin repairing the damage.
The total cost of the damage is not yet known. Estimates put the damage total between $3 and $4 million, but officials say the final costs could easily exceed those estimates. School leaders say insurance expected to cover the cost of the restoration.
The following areas of the building are considered total losses:
- Administrative offices
- Media center
A connecting hallway between the library and media center was also deemed a total loss, and the areas have been stripped down to concrete and roofing materials. Some of the steel deck and joists will likely need to be replaced. About half of the building also sustained significant smoke damage.
So far, staff and board members have worked with Wold Architects on some specific changes to the most heavily-damaged areas. Current plans include:
1. Removing the planter from the main entry hall
2. Installing a new set of security doors that will remain locked during the school day and require visitors to instead enter the office before gaining access to the rest of the building
3. Redesigning the office and library
Some portions of the building will also be upgraded during the rebuilding process to comply with code requirements. Handicap access points will also be added to the entry doors.
The school had already planned to replace some areas damaged in the fire over the summer months as part of a $6-million energy project, but insurance proceeds will replace damaged roofing and HVAC components and allow the district "significant credits" to be applied to energy improvements.
School officials say they are impressed with how thorough the insurance adjustor and restoration representatives have been so far, and they believe that once finished, the building will be in better condition than it was before the fire.
More information on the process can be found online here: www.scc.k12.wi.us
The school is not asking for donations at this time, but a fund has been established to accept checks at the following address:
St. Croix Central School District
P.O. Box 118
Hammond, WI 54015
Donations are also accepted at any WESTconsin Credit Union branch.
In early May, 24-year-old Justin Nelson was charged with arson in connection with the fire. When police questioned Nelson about the fire at St. Croix Elementary, he said, "I have reasons to believe that it was me" but said his memory was "foggy." He remains in custody, and is due back in court for a pre-trial hearing on June 17. Along with arson, he's also charged with burglary and drug possession.