Lake Clifton-Eastern High reopens


Students returned today to fire-damaged Lake Clifton-Eastern High School and to relatively minor inconveniences, including long, frigid detours between classrooms.

Only the library, which will have to be reconstructed and restocked, was not functioning this morning, said Donna Franks, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore school system.

However, halls connecting the school's burned-out library to other school buildings were closed. Instead of taking their usual indoor shortcuts, students and staff members were forced to take detours -- outdoors on icy sidewalks and into the sub-freezing cold.

Across town, school officials sent children home from the Woodbourne Day Center at 10 a.m. after discovering that the school was without water and some classrooms without heat.

At Lake Clifton-Eastern, a crew of 300 workers organized by a company specializing in emergency reconstruction rushed yesterday to scrub away soot and complete a $1 million cleanup to reopen the school. Work continued today, a week after the school's central building was heavily damaged by fire.

City health and safety inspectors toured the school late yesterday and pronounced it fit for reoccupancy. Repair and cleanup work began 12 hours after the fire and continued around the clock all last week, Ms. Franks said. Lake Clifton-Eastern is the city's largest high school, and no other facility was available to hold classes for its 2,229 students, she said.

The crash repair work was led by a team from Inrecon, a private company in Detroit that bills itself as "disaster specialists," Ms. Franks said. Inrecon, in turn, hired 10 local contractors to do parts of the work.

She said the cost of the cleanup to date is about $1 million. She had no estimate on the future cost of rebuilding the library or replacing books, but said officials expect the losses to be covered by insurance.

Many people have called and offered to donate books . Ms. Franks said there is no place to store donated books, but people may call the school at 396-6637 to have their names added to the list of future donors.

Contrary to initial reports that blamed a faulty electrical outlet, fire investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, said Battalion Chief Hector Torres, a spokesman for the Baltimore Fire Department. They have ruled out arson, he said.

The school, on St. Lo Drive in Northeast Baltimore, called the largest in the country when it opened in 1971, was designed as five buildings connected by passageways. Fire damage was concentrated in "the central core," containing the library and administrative offices.

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