Kids return to classroom after campus blaze

Class was back in session Monday morning as students from a Menlo Park private school returned to campus after a devastating blaze ripped through the building four days ago.

Beechwood School was closed Thursday after an early-morning fire destroyed the mobile building that houses administration offices and the third grade classroom.

According to a statement, the fire was caused by a short circuit in an electrical cord in the kitchen, resulting in losses of about $300,000 to the structure and $100,000 to the contents.

Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said the building contained many combustible materials.

When asked about returning to school, Beechwood principal David Laurance told KGO-TV he was ecstatic because:

“… when we were standing here Thursday morning, while the fire was burning, that was the goal we set … to get school back open on Monday morning.”

Young students like Makayla were also excited to return to Beechwood, which she considers a second family:

“… we missed a lot of days of school, but I’m just happy to be back and everybody was okay.”

Schapelhouman said that because the building, which dates back to 1986, was meant to be temporary, it was exempt from certain fire code regulations.

Since the school did not have a fire alarm or sprinkler system, he spoke to students and faculty Monday morning about the importance of smoke detectors and escape plans.

He also complimented the school community for coming together and overcoming the obstacles that the fire left behind:

“This is the fastest that we’ve ever seen a school reopen.”

Schapelhouman said that 15 firefighters, including personnel from the Redwood City Fire Department, battled the blaze for about eight hours. They were still on the scene as late as 6 p.m., helping school officials recover laptop computers, a projector and filing cabinets.

Melinda Christopherson, the director’s assistant at the California Family Foundation, is encouraging families to stop by the school and provide contact information since the children’s emergency cards and registration information were lost in the blaze.

Despite the dark cloud the fire may have cast over the school, Laurance said that the fire actually gives them the momentum to assure that they build more permanent structures.

The school has expressed gratitude on their website for all the donations they have received since Thursday.

Donations can be made online via PayPal or by checks addressed to The California Family Foundation, 3201 Ash Street, Palo Alto, CA, 94306.