After their school caught fire early Friday, East St. John Elementary School students in LaPlace can expect to be out of class for at least two or three weeks, an official said.
The students eventually will be relocated to the vacant campus at Leon Godchaux Junior High School in nearby Reserve, according to St. John the Baptist Parish School Board member Russ Wise.
Officials also are facing the possibility of having to demolish the East St. John Elementary building, which was badly damaged by Friday’s fire.
The blaze forced the cancellation of Friday classes at both East St. John Elementary and Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, which is operating out of portable buildings on the East St. John Elementary campus. The portable buildings were not damaged by Friday’s fire, Wise said.
Nonetheless, Lake Pontchartrain Elementary will remain closed at least Monday and Tuesday, officials said.
“We won’t keep kids out of school any longer than we have to,” Wise said.
East St. John High School students took classes at Godchaux for about three years after their campus was destroyed during Hurricane Isaac in August 2012. The high school moved back to its home campus this summer.
East St. John Elementary students’ move to Godchaux won’t be immediate because that campus — which has not been permanently occupied for years — requires some improvements, including repairs to a sewer line, before it can host classes again.
Additionally, St. John schools Superintendent Kevin George said Godchaux needs to be redesigned to accommodate pre-K through eighth-grade students after it most recently hosted high schoolers.
Lake Pontchartrain Elementary has been operating out of the portable buildings at East St. John Elementary because Hurricane Isaac destroyed its permanent LaPlace campus as well.
Meanwhile, the state Fire Marshal’s Office is leading an investigation into a blaze that authorities were alerted to about 12:15 a.m. Friday.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said he has directed five deputies and a supervisor to determine what caused the fire at East St. John Elementary. Though it’s early, there were no indications that the fire was intentionally set, he said.
So-called “hot spots” were still burning inside the school building on Friday afternoon, and local firefighters were working to douse them, Browning said. A full investigation won’t be conducted until those hot spots are put out.
Browning said it appeared the area of the school that sustained the most damage encompassed a gymnasium and an attached hallway.
Investigators were prepared to remain at the school through the weekend, he said.