Fan fault suspected in school fire

By Sandra Conchie

A blaze that gutted a detached satellite classroom used by special-needs students and teaching staff caused an estimated $500,000 worth of damage.

A 10-year-old Merivale School student walking his dog about 5.15pm on Sunday raised the alarm.

Kaka Street Special School principal Barrie Wickens said about three-quarters of the classroom was destroyed, as well as an estimated $60,000 worth equipment. The classroom had been used by 11 special-needs students and six teaching staff under an arrangement with Tauranga Intermediate School.

The cause of the fire was still being investigated but an electrical fault in an external extractor fan was suspected.

Items destroyed included seven computers, an interactive whiteboard, furniture, teaching resources, library books as well as personal items belonging to staff and teachers. "Staff are absolutely gutted but we are so grateful that no one was injured," Mr Wickens said. Most of the 11 students would stay at home for the next few days while decisions were made about alternative arrangements.

He would be speaking to the school's insurers once a full loss assessment was completed.

Mr Wickens said he had received offers of help including from Tauranga Intermediate principal Brian Diver and Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti who had offered the loan of computers.

"But it's going to be difficult as effectively we have to start again with nothing," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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