James Hargest College principal Andy Wood surveys arson damage at C Block on the senior campus, Layard St, North Invercargill. Photo by Allison Rudd.
Staff at James Hargest College are determined pupils'
learning will not be disrupted by a fire which seriously
damaged a classroom block on the senior campus, principal
Andy Wood says.
Police and fire investigators believe the fire, which was
discovered at 5.30am on January 3, was arson.
Three vacant classrooms were gutted and three more have
extensive smoke and water damage. Cabling and electrics
throughout the block were also destroyed and a school car
parked nearby seriously damaged.
The block was being remodelled into home economics and
computing classrooms and about 60% of that work had been
completed. Three of the classrooms were to be ready when the
school reopens at the end of this month.
Mr Wood said Ministry of Education engineers were assessing
It was ''likely'' at least part of the block would have to be
demolished and rebuilt, he said.
Staff were already working on contingency plans for housing
pupils when school began.
The plans had not been finalised but could include bussing
pupils to the junior campus at the other end of Layard St,
''We will also convert spaces such as the AV Theatre into
teaching spaces and utilise small areas for small classes to
leave larger classrooms available for larger groups. It will
involve lateral thinking.''
Staff were ''deeply disappointed'' about the arson and were
doing what they could to help the team, he said.
''This is an inconvenience ... but the kids' learning will
not be affected.''
Mr Wood said he was ''absolutely at a loss'' to understand
why anyone would set fire to the school.
''I don't understand how anyone could think that was an
acceptable action. It is extremely perplexing and
Detective Chris Lucy, of Invercargill Police, said inquiries
into the arson were continuing. Police were following up
leads and speaking to members of the public who had responded
to an appeal for information about people seen in the Layard
St area about the time of the fire, and suspicious activity
at or near the school.
More information would be welcomed, he said.