November 2, 2006

Chem Lab Fire Destroys N.C. High School

GIBSONVILLE, N.C. - A fire that began in a chemistry lab destroyed a high school, leaving more than 1,000 students without a school building for the rest of the year.

A teacher spotted the fire around 2 p.m. Wednesday at Eastern Guilford High School and tried to put it out with an extinguisher, but then pulled the alarm. The school, which has 1,060 students, was evacuated, with students, teachers and other employees going to a nearby church.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The building was a total loss, said Mike Wright, deputy director of operations for Guilford County EMS.

"Those kids will not go back to school there this year, there's no question," said Guilford County schools Superintendent Terry Grier, who met Wednesday night with school officials to decide what to do. "Our primary goal is to try to keep the classes together as much as we can."

School administrators discussed space at other nearby high schools but did not decide where the students will go for the rest of the year. Classes were canceled for Thursday and Friday.

"I just don't know what we are going to do about school or football," said Brandon Pride, 17. "I wonder if we've lost our transcripts and what this is going to mean for the rest of the year and college."

The school board planned to hold an emergency meeting Friday.

Gibsonville, 15 miles east of Greensboro, has about 4,600 residents. Its school district is the third largest in the state, with 116 schools, including about two dozen other high schools.