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Beach schools weigh options

Colonial Beach Elementary School students will be off the rest of the week after a fire ravaged the former high school building near their classrooms Sunday.

School officials in the Potomac River town are still determining the next steps, primarily where 280 pre-K through fifth-grade students will finish out the school year.

Town School Board Chairman Tim Trivett said there are two priorities to keep in mind while they decide what to do: student safety and what is conducive to the learning environment.

The King George County school system has offered classroom space. The adjacent Westmoreland County school division has offered to help the town, but doesn’t have extra space, Trivett said.

He said the Colonial Beach School Board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss what’s been done so far and what needs to be done.

Insurance adjusters examined fire damage Monday and met with school officials.

State Police arson investigators are still determining the cause of the fire.

It’s an ongoing fire investigation, said State Police Spokesman Sgt. Thomas Molnar in an email on Monday evening.

The brick building that caught fire around 4 a.m. Sunday was not being used for classes. It was originally Colonial Beach High and was later used as a middle school. It’s been vacant for two years after being damaged by the 2011 earthquake.

The elementary school buildings and modular classrooms surrounding the burned building can’t be used because they’re too close to the badly damaged school.

There was a chemistry lab in the building that was cause for concern. Trivett said two chemists were coming to the building Monday to remove the hazardous materials and chemicals.

A hazardous-materials team from Fredericksburg assisted with the chemicals on Sunday.

Teachers were allowed into the elementary classrooms Monday to recover what they could, such as lesson plans.

By Wednesday, a fence will be put up around the perimeter of the school site, said Tracey Tunstall, director of federal programs for Colonial Beach Public Schools.

Officials are discussing options for how to relocate the students, but there’s no quick fix, Trivett said.

He said they’ll wait and see what the insurance adjusters tell them.

“We’ve got a disaster,” he said.

“I’m hoping something good will come out of all of it.”

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413

rsidersky@freelancestar.com

WANT TO HELP?

The building lost in the fire Sunday in Colonial Beach no longer housed any classes, but it was used to store school supplies.

All those supplies were lost in the fire. The school is in desperate need of any school supplies, office supplies and physical education equipment, School Board member Michelle Payne said in an email.

All donations can be dropped off at Colonial Beach High School, 100 1st St., Colonial Beach and checks can be made out to Colonial Beach Public Schools.

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