Fire-damaged Saks High expected to open on time
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Aug 05, 2013 | 3489 views |  0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jimmy Batchelor helps with removing things from the fire-damaged part of the Saks High School.  On the right is the janitor's closet where the fire began.  Photo by Bill Wilson.
Jimmy Batchelor helps with removing things from the fire-damaged part of the Saks High School. On the right is the janitor's closet where the fire began. Photo by Bill Wilson.
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Although the cleanup of fire-damaged Saks High School is expected to last through September, school officials still believe the building will be open for the return of students in less than two weeks.

Dee Ingram, maintenance supervisor for Calhoun County Schools, said Monday the central section of the school’s main building still needs extensive cleanup from a June 16 fire, but the library and lunchroom are ready for use.

“The lunchroom is the biggest thing,” Ingram said. “You can’t have school without the lunchroom.”

The fire damaged most of the second floor and the roof of the main building. The Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire began in a utility closet in the early morning hours.

Ingram said science classrooms near the library will also open when school starts.

Saks High Principal Jody Whaley said 12 classrooms on the second floor of the building will still be unusable when students return, including two special-needs classrooms. Despite the setback, Whaley said he’s already prepared rearrangements for classes. Saks High School operates on campus built for a much larger student body, Whaley said, but with enrollment of 535, there’s plenty of room.

“It won’t be a problem,” Whaley said of potential overcrowding.

The Calhoun County Board of Education on Monday awarded Birmingham-based DEC Fire and Water Renovation with a building-cleanup contract worth an estimated $47,990. The approval brings the total cost of cleanup and repairs for Saks High to $875,169.

Ingram said insurance adjustors estimated the total cost of the project would be between $1 million and $1.5 million.

The Board of Education still needs to approve a general contract for cleaning smoke damage to the school, which Ingram believes will be put out for bid sometime next week.

Ingram said Monday that all damaged electrical wiring and heating and cooling units had been removed from the school. Mike Fincher, director of safety for Calhoun County Schools, said all safety hazards had been removed from the building and that it is safe to occupy.

“We’re moving along pretty well,” Ingram said on the cleanup progress.

Repairs to the roof are expected to begin this week and should be completed for the scheduled return of students on Aug. 19, he said. Electrical engineering and replacement of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units are also scheduled to start this week.

Whaley said all student desks not destroyed by the fire had been removed from the classrooms and cleaned. Workers are continuing to clean other furniture, he said.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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