Fire closes Blackwood school for a week

Fire closes Blackwood school for a week

Smoke escapes from a wing of Our Lady of Hope School, Blackwood, on March 1. The fire damage forced the school to close for the week. It is scheduled to re-open on Monday.

On March 1, the Special Subject wing of Our Lady of Hope Regional School in Blackwood was heavily damaged by an early morning fire.

Just before 8 a.m., Gloucester Township Fire Units and Gloucester Township EMS Units responded, and the fire was quickly placed under control.

The wing of the PreK-8 school that houses the art, library, science and computer classrooms was primarily affected, but the main wing of the school and its offices did receive smoke damage.

Due to snow, the school that day was operating on a delayed opening, and no students and minimal staff were on site. Pete Lutz, from the maintenance staff discovered the fire and notified local law enforcement.

The fire is under investigation by the Blackwood Fire Marshal and the Camden County Fire Marshal’s Office.

In a letter to the Our Lady of Hope School and church community, Father Joseph Szolack, pastor, thanked the “First Responders whose quick reaction minimized the damage.”

He also thanked Mary Boyle, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Camden, for her support since last Friday.

Classes will resume this Monday at the regular time, with Mass scheduled at 8 a.m.

While the school is closed, a durable boundary is being created to seal off the damaged wing and continue the 24/7 charcoal air cleansing that has taken place in the remainder of the school building, said Principal John Cafagna in a letter to school parents.

Other steps that have already been taken include:

— tarping of the roof and securing windows that were damaged

— re-routing of electric and heating circuits to the other areas of the building due to wiring damage in the fire

— re-routing of the alarm system to the rest of the building

— installation of electrical generators to the damaged wing to prevent further damage and provide electrical service necessary for clean-up

— cleaning smoke and soot damage

— structural engineer review and certification that the rest of the building is sound.

Cafagna noted that athletic activities at Our Lady of Hope will be rescheduled.

The main wing of the school is scheduled to re-open on Monday, March 11, while the Special Subject wing will not re-open until the next school year. Classes normally held in this wing will take place in the main wing for the remainder of this school year.

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