Superintendent Peter Lancia said he is waiting for a schedule of repairs to Westbrook High School before setting a date for its reopening, following a July 25 fire.

Lancia said the length of the repairs and their costs will be clearer after meeting with contractors this week.

Insurance appraisals and funding sources also need to be nailed down, Lancia said at a joint meeting Monday of the City Council and School Committee.

Students were notified two weeks before the first days of school on Sept. 1-2 that they would start the school year remotely.

No one was injured in the fire that did minimal damage, but sprinklers caused extensive water damage, and additional code violations were found in the building during an investigation.

“At this point, we don’t have a final budget,” Lancia said. “The repair work is immediate. As we understand what the coverage will provide that will help set a budget for any work that needs to be done as well as the timeline.”

Lancia said the school department hopes insurance will cover most costs, but the department will likely seek funding from the council.

Mayor Mike Foley indicated that the city would provide financial support to the school department.

“It’s a community facility and a community issue and we need to work together,” Foley said. 

Co-Principal Wendy Harvey said repairs are well underway on the third floor, while the first and second floors of the damaged wing remain gutted down to the sheetrock. 

Heaters and air exchangers were installed to prevent mold or mildew, Harvey said. 

“We had a very unfortunate accident and we had to make some decisions that were exceptionally difficult,” Harvey said. “I sat in a meeting in July and said I’d give my word we’d have kids back in the fall. I know when we had to reverse that and go remote, it was devastating.”

Lancia said students will return in phases as certain areas reopen, though there is no timeline yet.

According to a Fire Department inspector Mike Corey, the fire started near an air conditioner plugged into an extension cord inappropriate for the voltage, which likely caused the cord to overheat and burn.

Some of the expected costs and repairs, Lancia said, are related to code violations found throughout the building, including old wiring that is covered in cloth rather than modern plastics and wiring set on top of the ceiling instead of being properly fastened.

Other safety violations included non-code extension cords and coffee pots and other kitchen devices and have been removed, he said. Staff now must make official requests to set up any electrical devices they bring to school.

Inspections at other schools in the district found no major issues. 

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