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RESEDA : Workers Hurry to Repair Burnt Classrooms

September 02, 1993|JILL LEOVY

With school due to start in less than a week, workers are scrambling to repair two classrooms gutted by fire at an elementary school in Reseda.

Cantara Street School was already barely able to house its 650 students, Principal Sandy McGuern said. Now, Los Angeles Unified School District officials say it will probably be late October before the most severely damaged classroom is ready for use. That means at least one class of fifth-graders will be relegated to the school library, while another might end up in the auditorium, McGuern said.

"It's a downer for the staff and the children," said McGuern. "It doesn't do much for morale."

The July 31 fire that destroyed one classroom and damaged the second was officially listed as an electrical fire by the Los Angeles Fire Department. But McGuern said firefighters on the scene suspected arson, based on the fact that several smaller, less destructive fires had been ignited around the campus that same night.

McGuern said the fire, which began in a cabinet in the early morning, destroyed all the teaching materials accumulated by teacher Maggi Robson during her 28-year career--a devastating loss to Robson, who has since taken an illness leave, she said.

"There was not a piece of paper left in there," McGuern said. "One classroom was completely gone . . . the windows exploded, the doors whacked opened by firefighters."

Julie Crum, LAUSD deputy director of maintenance and operation, said the $45,000 cost of repairing the classrooms will come from a new $2.3-million fire repair fund approved by the district's board of directors this year.

The new fund means that the school district can now repair thousands of dollars worth of fire damage throughout Los Angeles, Crum said. In the past, she said, damaged classrooms such as the one at Cantara might have been left untouched for a year or more before the district could afford to fix them.

McGuern said the school is seeking donations of materials and furniture to replace some of the losses.

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