Weather helps cleaning crews at Cedar Ridge High School

NEWARK, AR (KAIT) – The rough winter weather this week proved beneficial to one local school that needed some work days.

Administrators canceled classes last Friday after an early morning fire at Cedar Ridge High School in Newark. The students then got two extra days off because of the snow and ice.

That gave the school more time to figure out scheduling and continue cleaning up from a fire that destroyed two classrooms and left smoke damage everywhere else.

Investigators have concluded their investigation and shared with school officials Thursday what caused the fire.

The investigation determined that the blaze started accidentally after a plug was not fully secured in a socket in a computer room. This caused heat to build and spark flames that fully destroyed two classrooms, including business and computer teacher Shanda Wood.

Wood was able to get back into her classroom Thursday to begin sifting through the charred remains.

"I have been in there trying to do a little bit of inventory," Wood said. "We're actually going to start going through and say yes, we need to try to clean this [or] no, that's going to be damaged and we're going to toss that."

She ended up throwing away more than what she kept. Everything from a cart of iPads to computers to books will have to be disposed of in her classroom and the one that suffered even more damage next door.

"It is what it is, and that's kind of our philosophy," Wood said. "We were devastated. We had those tears. We had those hugs and all of that, but then it's like okay, we've got to get the kids back in this building and that's the priority."

Leading the cleanup effort are crews from All-Clean Restoration Services.

Its workers came in hours after the fire Friday and are still working to scrub the entire school – all 76,000 square feet of it.

"Every inch of this building has got to be wiped down, and that's what's taking so long," said Dr. Ann Webb, the superintendent. "So yes, it's a great deal more extensive than I could have ever imagined."

Dr. Webb says the cleaning crews expect to finish their job in four weeks, which will also include fully renovating the two classrooms where the fire originated.

The crews have so far removed every ceiling tile in the building and have reopened the high school office, kitchen and cafeteria.

Dr. Webb says the first students can likely reenter one section of the building Monday, adding that the school will open more parts as cleaning progresses.

"I never dreamed I'd get a phone call, and my high school would be on fire," she said. "But you know, that's what it is, and we're going to deal with it and make the best of it and continue with our education."

Classes will reconvene Friday, but the school will have to house its students in different buildings to do so.

Staff will meet with students at 8 a.m. in the gymnasium to discuss where they will be assigned temporarily.

The plan right now is to bus the seventh and eighth grade students to Cord-Charlotte Elementary for the time being. The ninth and tenth graders will then move into their building, the new junior high school.

The junior class will be transported to Newark Elementary School nearby, while the seniors will meet in the agriculture building next to the high school.

If any parents have questions about this temporary arrangement, Dr. Webb asks them to call her at 870-799-8691, extension 204.

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