One Year Later
Lab school rebuilding from arson by keeping students in mind more
Plans to rebuild the classrooms and offices at the lab school, which were destroyed by a fire a year ago, are underway, said Robert Boyd, director of facilities and management.
“We are still in negotiation with the insurance and it should be finalized in a week or two,” Boyd said. “We are in the process of building a semipermanent building like the University High School.”
Boyd said he hopes to receive at least $1 million from the insurance settlement to cover the cost of reconstruction.
But university officials estimated the structural damage to be around $1.5 million.
A statement released by the university last year indicated that the entire lab school complex has been insured at $4.7 million.
Boyd said the new structure would measure about 6,000 square feet and it will house the American English Institute and three classrooms.
The police, however, have not made any arrests in connection with the suspected arson.
University police detective Gilbert Washington said the case is still under investigation.
“It is still an open and active investigation. I don’t have anything that I’m looking into at the moment,” Washington said.
But a few changes have occurred around the building over the months.
The charred building has been torn down, leaving a mass of dirt cordoned off from curious onlookers by a chain-link fence covered with black canvas sheets. A dark, narrow hallway supported by a network of metal and constructed out of wooden boards, provides a secure passage between the torn-down building and the rooms in the complex.
The fire forced The Learning Resource Center (LRC), Student Support Services and Ronald E. McNair Program to relocate to a temporary trailer complex near the Peters Business Building on the east side of the campus.
LRC coordinator Sonya Hildreth said despite the setback, the center, which provides free tutoring services, has seen an increase in the number of students coming to the center because of its central location near the Peters Building.
“We like the new place. Actually the location that we are at now is better [than the Lab School],” Hildreth said. “We have seen a lot of traffic of students coming to the center.”
LRC tutorial coordinator Ray Sanchez said the number of students using the center has more than doubled in the past year.
“We have built a great relationship with The Craig School of Business,” Sanchez said.
The Craig Business School is the closest to the LRC.
Sanchez said the number of accounting students coming for tutoring at the center jumped from 18 students in spring 2003 to 88 last spring. University vice president and dean of students Paul Oliaro noted the support the center received last year during the fire crisis.
“This is just an example of how several departments on campus have worked collaboratively together to find a solution in the face of an emergency,” Oliaro said.
Maxine McDonald, director of academic enhancement services, quoted Albert Einstein, saying, “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
“It seems like a very distant memory right now; one year later, [but] I could see the opportunity,” McDonald said. “I was truly amazed at how the campus community rallied to help us.”