Blaze at Central High School causes closure until the end of the year

Local News
UPDATE:  Final grades will come out next week, along with a letter to the families of the students.  The graduation ceremony will still be held at the Bayfront Convention Center on June 7th.
Classes are canceled at Central Tech and Roosevelt Middle School following a destructive fire this morning.
Fire fighters had been busy since 4:15 this morning when a passerby noticed smoke pouring from the first floor of Central Tech High School building. The smoke there was reportedly so thick that the first trucks on the scene had trouble maneuvering into place.  The fire is said to have started in the horticulture lab, according to school officials, but how it started is still under investigation.  
There is extensive damage to the first and second floors.  The majority of the damage seems to have occurred in the C-wing of the building (furthest North) and the rest of the building has extensive smoke damage.  Fire fighters were pulled from the building because of a large beam that appeared to be sagging, creating a safety issue.  Fire fighters thought they had the fire out, but then smoke began to pour from the second floor of the building.  Several classrooms were damaged by the fire.
School officials are held a news conference at 2pm this afternoon, and will be met privately later, at 3pm.  We were at the news conference this afternoon, broadcasting on facebook live.  Watch it here.  Reportedly, the members of the school board are awaiting experts to assess the full extent of the damage. 
There is a statement on our website from the school board, as well.  As of now, classes are canceled at Central Tech and Roosevelt Middle School for the rest of the school year.  The Erie School District states, “due to the extent of the fire… we have decided to cancel classes for the rest of the school year…  Once we have clearance from the fire department that the building is safe… we will contact students with instructions on how to retrieve personal items.”
Central was scheduled for major renovation updates this summer to prepare for its transition to Erie High School.  The group of volunteers working to help get Central in shape for the planned consolidation also issued a statement this morning.  
Serve Erie says that the clean up projects planned for the school in July are now on hold, and the group will be meeting with school leaders in figuring out where to go from here.  In a statement released to the media, communications spokesperson, Jess Burkell said, “our hearts are hurting for the students, teachers and school administration who are directly impacted as we live in the unknown of what’s next; Serve Erie isn’t giving up…”
Brian Polito, Superintendent; says the fire will not delay submission of the revised recovery plan.  The school district is committed to the consolidation plan and are moving ahead; plans may just need to be adjusted.  The goal at this point is to have the majority of the building ready to open by the 2017-2018 school year. 
Senator Dan Laughlin says this is a “huge setback for Erie School District,” he also stated that structures can be rebuilt, but it is tougher to rebuild lives.  This is a “heart-wrenching way to end the school year.  It has been and continues to be the top priority to work together to overcome this adversity.”
Student support is available.  Those who need counseling can call 814-874-6000 during school hours and 814-456-2014 (crisis hotline) after hours.

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