April 23, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
38°F

Fire closes middle school: Monday morning blaze at Highland sends students home

GRANGER TWP. — Classes and extracur­ricular activities are canceled today at High­land Middle School following a fire Monday morning that caused the evacuation of stu­dents and staff.

At Monday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said restoration crews are removing soot and repainting some walls. She said she hopes classes will resume Wednesday, but the east gym will not be accessible “for a good long time.”

Law enforcement officers look on as firefighters exit the Highland Middle School gym Monday in Granger Township. About 820 students in grades six through eight were evacuated after a fire broke out in the boy’s locker room. No injuries were reported. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE GRAZIER)

Law enforcement officers look on as firefighters exit the Highland Middle School gym Monday in Granger Township. About 820 students in grades six through eight were evacuated after a fire broke out in the boy’s locker room. No injuries were reported. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE GRAZIER)

She said the state fire marshal’s office is interviewing staff and students who were near the fire when it started.

The fire broke out somewhere in the boy’s locker room attached to the school’s east gym, a spokesman with the Granger Fire Department said Monday afternoon. He said there were some small flames in the locker room, but the dam­age throughout the school was mostly from smoke.

“The classrooms had smoke on the desk and walls,” the spokesman said.

Early Monday, at least 40 fire­fighters ventilated the school with fans to clear the smoke.

No one was injured in the fire reported about 8:20 a.m. Mon­day, said Bob Dalziel, a captain with the Granger Fire Depart­ment.

Dawn Marzano, spokes­woman for Highland Local Schools, said the evacuation of the school’s 820 students in grades six through eight went smoothly. Staff members and students have practiced fire drills already this year, she said.

“They got out quickly and safely. They were very effective,” Marzano said. “They’ve obvi­ously practiced this many times before.”

About half the students were evacuated to the football sta­dium bleachers behind the school, and the other half went to a cafeteria across the road, said Jeff Rollyson, Highland’s head baseball coach.

“The kids exited quickly, and we went through attendance pretty (fast),” said Rollyson, who is also a health and physical education teacher at the middle school.

Rollyson, who was teaching a class when the fire was reported, said smoke appeared to origi­nate in the boy’s locker room and the gymnasium quickly filled with smoke.

“It smelled a lot like (burning) rubber in there,” he said.

Fire and smoke damage was visible in the gymnasium, adjoining locker rooms, some classrooms and hallways, Marzano said. Teachers were permitted to enter the school Monday afternoon to retrieve car keys and personal items.

The school district notified families about the fire through an automated phone system, Marzano said. Parents were told students could be picked up at Highland High School, 4150 Ridge Road, just down the street from the middle school at 3880 Ridge Road.

Marzano said students not picked up early spent the rest of the day at the high school.

Along with classes, all middle school sports and extracurricu­lar activities were canceled Monday and for today, Marzano said.

Besides Granger, firefighters responded from Sharon Town­ship, Wadsworth, Hinckley Township, Bath Township and Medina Township. The Medina County Sheriff’s Office and Medina Life Support team also responded.

Staff writer Maria Kacik Kula contributed to this report.

Contact Steve Grazier (330) 721-4012 or at sgrazier@medina-gazette.com.