Damage at Lake Clifton-Eastern could reach up to $1 million


Fire damage at Lake Clifton-Eastern Senior High School could reach $1 million -- twice the original estimate -- but Baltimore school officials vowed yesterday that the 2,229 students will return to class there Monday.

"I would not bet against [a Monday reopening]," Wilbur Giles, the director of facilities, said before a news conference.

Monday's four-alarm fire, caused by a faulty electrical socket on the library's first floor, caused between $800,000 and $1 million in damage, he said.

The library suffered permanent structural damage and will have to be demolished and rebuilt, a process that Mr. Giles said would take six months to a year. The cafeteria and the administrative building are covered with soot and both incurred water damage, which will be nearly fixed by Monday. Classrooms were not damaged by the fire.

School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey praised city and school officials for their determination to reopen Lake Clifton after a week of repairs. "We're really proud of the work that has been done," he said. "We took a difficult situation and turned it around. We need our entire Baltimore City family to see this."

Round-the-clock repairs are being led by Ruppert Brothers/Inrecon, a Michigan-based reconstruction company that also is providing 24-hour security. Repairs and security costs will be paid by insurance, the city facilities department's operating fund and possibly some state funding, said school official Anthony A. Fears.

The building will be ready for students by Monday, but not all repairs will be completed, Mr. Giles said. "It's not going to be pretty, and it's not going to be perfect. There will be some substantial work to do."

Safe air quality and a working cafeteria are the most important criteria for reopening Lake Clifton on Monday, Mr. Giles said. School officials will meet every day this week at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to monitor progress, Dr. Amprey said.

Moving Lake Clifton's students and 189 faculty members has not been considered, Dr. Amprey and other school officials said. No school could accommodate the students, and facilities such as the Baltimore Convention Center have not been seriously discussed, officials said.

The idea is to keep the student body united by the school, Dr. Amprey said. This afternoon, he added, the boys' basketball game between Walbrook and top-ranked Lake Clifton will take place in the gym, which was not damaged by the fire.

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