Fire at Northwest Area Delays Start of Classes

UNION TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Officials in the Northwest Area School District are considering their options after a fire at the high school on Saturday.

The middle school/high school in Luzerne County is off limits.

District officials say they are sure classes will not start as scheduled Monday morning. They do not know when they will be allowed back in their building.

At Monday morning band practice at Northwest Area Middle and High School in Union Township something was missing -- the instruments. Everything from trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and drums are back in the school that caught fire Saturday.

The school is temporarily off limits.

"It was kind of odd," said sophomore Nathan Lewis. "We couldn't go in the building to get our supplies around, and we didn't have everything."

Students made the best of it, practicing formations and movements rather than notes and songs.

"It's just knowing where you're going and having focus and concentration," explained seventh grader Kansas Troy.

One of the things that made this fire particularly sad for Northwest Area officials is that much of what was on the second floor that was damaged was new or relatively new. The lockers were installed just two weeks ago and the ceiling is only one year old.

"There is significant damage to the halls and some of the classrooms. The first floor has water damage, but we don't seem to see any damage to any of the classrooms or offices on the first floor," said operations manager Bette Ellis.

That means classes cannot begin as scheduled August 27.

"It's kind of bad because I wanted to start school already and see my friends again. It's kind of a good setback because of a longer summer," said seventh grader Alex Johnson.

That leaves more than 500 students, seventh through 12th grades, wondering when they will finish the school year in June of 2019.

Parents and students we spoke with are now wondering how long it will take to fix the damage.

There is extensive damage inside the school from the fire.

"I was shocked," said student Haley McTague. "I didn't expect that ever and it's like on the top floor. It was really bad."

"I didn't even know about a fire. I just drove up last night from Georgia, so I didn't know they had a fire," said truck driver Tank Johnson.

Newswatch 16 spoke to parents to see how they feel about the start of school being delayed.

"I was surprised, of course, and concerned. With school supposed to start in the next week or so, and wondered what the damage was and how bad it was," said Brenda Troy who has kids who go to the school.

Troy says she received an automated call from the district telling her about the fire.

"I hope things go well, and I hope it's not too long. I know they were discussing maybe bringing some modulars in."

In addition to bringing modular classrooms in, the Northwest Area School District is also considering doing split sessions until the damage is repaired.

The fire was ruled an accident. A state police fire marshal said an exact cause will be listed sometime on Monday.