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View Full Version : What to do when a high school burns down?



Keyaroscuro
05-13-2011, 01:37 PM
I just discovered this part of the forums, and I'm really glad I did because I've got questions I can't find decent answers for.

So, here's one particular question in length: What happens to the students, teachers, principal/vice-principal, etc. if a high school burns down right at the beginning of the school year? Especially with things like student government and sports? Where will the students go? Will they be shipped off and divided amongst neighboring high schools, same with the teachers? Will the student government (the elected student officers, etc.) be forced to disband?

DrZoidberg
05-13-2011, 02:25 PM
When a friend I used to have as a child burned down his own school they simply relocated the whole school to another building and improvised. They did get a day or two off from school.

They got old school books that had been put in storage centraly. Basically the same books but worn out and slightly less up to date. This building already had benches and chairs and stuff. So I assume it once had been used as a school. Or those too had been in storage and very rapidly sent there and set up. Very quickly it was back to business as usual. This was in the 70'ies early 80'ies so we didn't have much fancy equipment that wasn't easy to replace. There was no computers in schools back then.

The kid was never caught. It was just pointless arson/vandalism.

KQ800
05-13-2011, 03:15 PM
I just discovered this part of the forums, and I'm really glad I did because I've got questions I can't find decent answers for.

So, here's one particular question in length: What happens to the students, teachers, principal/vice-principal, etc. if a high school burns down right at the beginning of the school year? Especially with things like student government and sports? Where will the students go? Will they be shipped off and divided amongst neighboring high schools, same with the teachers? Will the student government (the elected student officers, etc.) be forced to disband?

In the town where I grew up they had sports in a large buildign separate from the school and that was used after a fire. the dressing rooms was class rooms, and bleachers and the main floor was sectioned off into "rooms". It was after my school days so I don't know how well it worked.

shadowwalker
05-13-2011, 05:46 PM
They tore down and rebuilt the grade school I went to. My grade went to an old 2-room schoolhouse; others met in church basements, the town meeting hall, and a couple classrooms at the high school. Did that for a full school year.

I would imagine, in the case of a fire, books could be gotten fairly quickly through regular sources (school districts do have insurance to pay for such things), and students are pretty adaptable. Don't see any reason why the student government would have to disband, any more than any of the other student groups.

Becca_H
05-13-2011, 06:16 PM
This wasn't my whole school, but when I was sixteen, a newly refurbished building (about 1/6th of the school) was completely destroyed in a fire.

The school closed for a few days while temporary buildings were brought in (these were basically green caravans) and we worked in there for the rest of the year.

For an entire school, assuming they had fields and open space, I would guess that temporary buildings could be sourced pretty quick and necessary equipment reordered.

Kitti
05-13-2011, 06:24 PM
My elementary school burned down at one point - it was one of those "open classroom" schools with cardboard walls that could be opened up to make it all one giant room, so of course the cardboard walls burned out first and the roof collapsed. It was a bit of a problem as it was the only year-round-school in a county full of 9-month-schools, so it was actually off-schedule from the rest of the schools, in session when they weren't and out of session when they weren't, which helped maintain a sense of unity among the student population for the year they were scattered. (It also helped that our mascot was the dragon - hello, irony, school burning down?)

IIRC it was in October, pretty close to the beginning of the school year. They ended up dividing the student population among 3 of the nearest schools based on geography and busing. I believe each teacher was assigned a school; the admin staff was partially assigned to various schools but the ones like the principal rotated through and was checking on all the students/teachers.

Not sure what would happen to the sports teams. I would imagine that the fall team would be the most impacted, as all the winter and spring sports players could be told to try out for their host schools' teams. Most fall sports are played outside, so as long as the practice fields were undamaged they could bus the players over (or tell them to get their own transportation over) to the old school and still hold practices. Depending on how late into the fall season they were, they might just let any team that wasn't going to do well in districts or states just disband.

I'd imagine the student government would try to continue to function, especially if this is set in the modern day with all the scads of social media available to teens. In my day, we'd have been SOL, but today the student government could still try to organize homecoming parades and dances and proms - all held at places other than their school, like local hotels - via the internet.

On an epilogue-y note: The county rushed through the rebuild by grabbing the approved schematics from another local school to avoid all the planning part, and they started rebuilding as soon as they managed to clear away all the rubble. It was in the middle of an apartment community, so there was always someone around during the day and early evenings and they organized to provide food & snacks to the workers all day long so those guys decided they were going to put in 12 and 14-hour days to get the school rebuilt in something like 7 months, most of which was winter - it was pretty amazing.

Kitti
05-13-2011, 06:30 PM
P.S. B/c I cross-posted Becca - yes, trailers would be a good solution if there were enough available and the student body was small enough. Also, if the high school was built side-by-side with a middle school (which is common in my county) then you could conceivably move a large number of the high schoolers into there (assuming, of course, you aren't already dealing with an over-crowding situation in the middle school.)

PinkAmy
05-13-2011, 06:32 PM
They relocate the school or set up trailers in place of classrooms if it's a small school and this is feasible. If there are other HSs in the district, the teachers and kids would likely be farmed out if there wasn't an adequate building to move the entire school to. This has happened around where I live, not for a fire, but because buildings were condemned for asbestos and mold (different cases.)

Kitti
05-13-2011, 06:40 PM
Okay, just kidding on some of the facts above. I went and found the official fire report (http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/tr-135.pdf) for the school burning. Time sure messes with your memory...


In interviews with school personnel, several special considerations were brought to light. The first, and most obvious, was the immediate relocation of students. The fire occurred on a Monday night in the middle of the school year, meaning that a new home had to be found for the students as quickly as possible. Children were temporarily spread among five other elementary schools—this situation lasted two weeks, or until winter break began. After the winter holiday, the Dogwood students were transferred to two smaller schools that were being closed as a result of consolidation (one was com- pletely vacated, one was partially vacated). The students will remain at these two facilities until the new Dogwood is opened in the spring of 2002.

A little more recently, another local school (after ice collapsed their roof roof) was divided up among five schools by grade (http://connectionnewspapers.com/article.asp?article=254604&paper=71&cat=104).

kaitie
05-13-2011, 07:09 PM
We had a large high school in my town (over two thousand students) that burned down when I was a kid. They moved all of the students to other schools in the area until they could rebuild it.

Maryn
05-13-2011, 08:38 PM
What options best serve your story? Possibilities include
Students divided among other schools in the district, probably based on where they live, and bus service expanded to transport them. Athletes are then on other schools' teams, student government essentially dissolved until the school is re-formed or rebuilt.
Students divided among other schools in the district, probably based on where they live, and bus service expanded to transport them--but the school continues to exist as a separate entity, with its own student government and its own athletic teams, probably sharing practice fields and locker facilities in ways which are not convenient for either.
Trailers or other temporary classrooms brought to any open area large enough, and school goes on as usual after a week or less. Student government and athletics go on as usual.
School year revised so students will attend through summer in order for school to be closed now while repairs are made and/or temporary structures brought in. Athletic teams still practice and play during their sports' seasons, using other schools' facilities.
Teachers and staff assigned to other schools which are now overloaded, or are laid off, or are paid for doing no work, depending entirely on the budget of the district and on what's in the teachers' contracts. If they're unionized, they're likely to get paid, and the district will do its damnedest to find a way to make them earn it, even if it's not in the classroom. This might be when the curriculum is examined and revised by experienced professionals, for instance.


Maryn, who's heard of all these things happening

MaryMumsy
05-13-2011, 09:56 PM
In June 2010 the high school my brother attended (years before) was partially destroyed after a small plane crashed into it. This was a rural area, and the next closest high school is at least 50 miles away. They brought in portable classrooms, and school started on schedule in the fall.

MM

Cyia
05-13-2011, 10:04 PM
The local churches around here open their basements and annex buildings to allow for classes until something more permanent can be set-up.

PinkAmy
05-13-2011, 10:38 PM
The local churches around here open their basements and annex buildings to allow for classes until something more permanent can be set-up.
Do they run into any constitutional problems with separation of church and state?
Do the churches place restrictions on what the schools can teach? There's an old catholic church is NYC that's being used for something to do with AIDS, but the church will not allow the agency to talk about condom use. It went to court and the church won :( so the clinic had to move.

Cyia
05-13-2011, 11:08 PM
Do they run into any constitutional problems with separation of church and state?
Do the churches place restrictions on what the schools can teach? There's an old catholic church is NYC that's being used for something to do with AIDS, but the church will not allow the agency to talk about condom use. It went to court and the church won :( so the clinic had to move.


No. I'd guess that's why they use the annexes and basements, which are more "family centers", like community centers. Just being inside a church doesn't mean the church board or members have any say in what happens in the classes; they're just loaning out space.

We've also got a middle school repaying the favor by allowing a burned out church to use their cafeteria Sunday mornings.

Chris P
05-13-2011, 11:13 PM
Everyone DANCES! :snoopy:

As others have said, the school meets in alternate locations. They don't run into separation of church and state issues since the curriculum is still not one of religious worship or instruction.

Several local churches meet in school buildings here.

Keyaroscuro
05-14-2011, 01:43 AM
Wow guys! I wasn't expecting to get all these responses. Thanks for the personal experiences and thanks especially for looking stuff up for me.

In the story I was just going to take for granted that the students were divided up to neighboring high schools and the like, but it's nice to get some confirmation/more in-depth information about it. I didn't think of bringing in trailers, though, or about the insurance policy (wow, can't believe that slipped my mind), and I'm more confident about how I'm going to address one of my character's sports issue.

Hmm, I have a lot more to think about now.

LJD
05-14-2011, 07:22 PM
At my dad's high school in the seventies, at one point there were essentially two schools operating out of one building. One from 7am-noon and the other from noon-five (or something similar). Cannot recall the exact reason for this, but I know another school was being constructed. This was in the Toronto suburbs.

jaksen
05-14-2011, 10:09 PM
Are you writing this in the present day? Portable classrooms is the way a lot of school systems would go. They come in all shapes and sizes; some are meant for short-term. Others could be used for years. They can be rented, leased, purchased. Insurance would pay for them.

Where I live there are many, many empty large schools that have been closed over the years due to declining enrollment and/or new buildings being built. An older building could be quickly refurbished, or portions of it could be used. This might make for an interesting angle, if students were bussed to an older, architecturally-interesting building.

When the school I worked at was being 'rebuilt' we moved the students from area to area, with some sections closed off for safety reasons. (They were physically inaccessible; they built walls at the ends of corridors.) They also brought in portable buildings and that's what we did for three years.

And in the town I live in, (but didn't teach in) part of a Catholic church which had classrooms was used for a while. (This was due to overcrowding, not a fire.) All religious 'artifacts' were covered over, such as crosses, etc, and they were uncovered for Sunday school or when the rooms were being used for religious purposes.