Fire-damaged Willow Park School reopens

Students are going back to class on Tuesday at a southeast Calgary school that was badly damaged by a suspicious fire last fall.

Suspicious blaze destroyed classroom in October, filled building with smoke

Grade 7 student Essien Udoumoren says he is happy to back at Willow Park. The school reopened Tuesday. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Students are going back to class today at a southeast Calgary school badly damaged by a suspicious fire last fall.

One classroom at Willow Park School was gutted in the Oct. 9 blaze that caused smoke damage throughout the building. The arson unit has been investigating the fire.

Staff Sgt. Colin Chisholm believes at least two people were involved in the fire and vandalism, which left nearly every window in the school broken, but police have no suspects.

The Willow Park School classroom where a fire started last fall has been completely rebuilt and the school reopened on Tuesday. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

"Maybe somebody's conscience will get to them [if] they know information with respect to who's responsible for this crime. Hopefully ... people will come forward," he said.

Extensive smoke damage, including damage to the ducts and ventilation systems, made the entire school unusable.

Students from Willow Park had been going to the Viscount Bennett Centre while their school was repaired.

MuItimillion-dollar restoration needed

"A significant amount of equipment and instructional supplies were cleaned and shipped to the Viscount Bennett Centre for students to use while they were temporarily attending class at that location," said the Calgary Board of Education (CBE).

It meant an hour long bus ride and new surroundings for Grade 7 student Essien Udoumoren.

"It was hard to get used to and also, my classrooms were really spread out so I had to run around pretty much the whole day," he said. 

It was a learning experience for the students, said principal Leslie Robertson. 

"That we can persevere, that there is huge power in the community coming together and  believe that we are strong, that we are bigger than an event, that we actually are bigger than a building,” she said.

The CBE does not have an exact tally of the damage, but it says the number is in the millions of dollars.

"Extensive cleanup was required, and many fixtures were replaced, including ceiling tiles and light fixtures as well as some lockers, furniture and equipment and cabinetry," said a board spokesperon. 

"Work was done to clean out ducts and ventilation systems. The school was also completely repainted once repair work is completed, before students moved back in."