A series of small fires set at and around West Sedona School Sunday, Oct. 8, destroyed several lockers and put a classroom and several offices out of commission.
Part of an exterior wall was damaged and had to be removed where a fire was set underneath the lockers, and the smell of smoke has seeped into the carpets and walls of the rest of the classroom and offices.
The classrooms and offices aren’t used for instruction, so students aren’t directly affected during their school day. But the church that rents that part of the building, SummitLIFE, uses those offices as well as the classroom — the one currently with a hole in the wall — for Sunday morning children’s school. Amanda Raucci, who teaches children’s Sunday school at SummitLIFE and is a secretary at West Sedona School, said they’ve held children’s church in West Sedona’s gym for the past two Sundays, and will continue to until the classroom is repaired.
Contractors are on-site working to clean and repair the damage, and they anticipate being finished by the end of next week. Once the rooms are cleaned, a third party air quality inspector has to come to determine whether the rooms are safe. If they pass inspection, SummitLIFE will be able to move back in; if they don’t pass inspection, the contractor will replace the carpets entirely and repaint the walls.
Officials estimate the fire caused $25,000 in damage. Meanwhile, West Sedona School is working with its insurer, the Arizona School Risk Retention Trust, to determine the damages that will be covered.
The 27 destroyed lockers will not have to be replaced, since the school has enough extra lockers to cover the loss. The school is still in the process of compiling a list of items lost and damaged in the fire, such as library books, textbooks and workbooks stored in lockers, which insurance may cover. But items owned by the students, including personal belongings like sweaters, and school supplies like notebooks and pencil cases, are not covered by the Trust.
“I did have one child in tears that her mom’s necklace or bracelet was gone,” Raucci said. But most of the lost items were the typical fare you’ll find in a school locker: Notebooks, pencils and waterbottles.
Scott Keller, principal at West Sedona School, said the Trust compared it to when your car is stolen: Your belongings are insured, but if your friend had belongings in your car, their loss would not be covered. The school estimated the cost of students’ losses at around $1,000 to $2,000. While only 27 lockers were destroyed outright, the teenagers who set the fire took items from surrounding lockers to use as kindling — so about 50 West Sedona students lost belongings. “The biggest loss is that intellectual property, where kids had their notes for the first quarter of school,” Keller said.
They can’t replace that, but the school is replacing items like school planners — normally $6 — for free, and giving students what little they have in terms of other school supplies like notebooks and pencils. But West Sedona doesn’t have enough to replace everything the students lost.
“I’ve had half a dozen parents say, ‘What can we get? I’m going to the store; can I get some binders or something?’” Keller said, and the school is also working with Staples to get back-to-school sale prices for students who have to replace lost supplies.
“The school is pretty resilient, and the kids are really resilient,” Keller said.
Sedona Police has arrested and charged the two teenagers involved in the arson.