A new day for Oconto High students after fire damages school

An Oconto Middle School classroom door is seen on April 21, 2014. (WLUK/Bill Miston)
An Oconto Middle School classroom door is seen on April 21, 2014. (WLUK/Bill Miston)

OCONTO – Oconto High School students are rubbing elbows with some of their – albeit smaller – peers.

Monday marked the first day high school students and classes used the nearby middle school. They were moved there after a suspicious fire in one of the high school’s boy’s bathroom caused roughly $5 million last week.

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So, the next couple weeks will be a learning curve for the 300 or so Oconto High School students and teachers.

English and speech teacher Amy Hinrichs says after the fire hit her school, her students needed school supplies and books.

"They're all gone," said Hinrichs, “I had to get online and order what I could from Amazon, with two-day shipping."

Some books are already in-hand, others are on the way.

"How much money, out of your own pocket, have you spent?" asked FOX 11’s Bill Miston.

"Maybe, $550?" said Hinrichs – agreeing it was a lot of money to spend in about four days’ time. “But I have a very supportive family."

"All that will be covered by the insurance," said Oconto Unified School District Superintendent Sara Croney of costs teachers, like Hinrichs, picked up.

Croney says insurance will also cover much of the roughly $5 million repair price tag. Police say they're still investigating how the fire started.

While there wasn't much fire damage to the high school, Croney says the school's ventilation system worked too well.

"There's not an area that didn't get touched," said Croney, after meeting with contractors and the restoration company Monday morning. "The air handlers pulled all the soot from the origin of the fire, through the whole school."

Some good out of all of this is the restoration is going so well, some students in the tech education classes will be able to get back into the building as early as this week.

Some good news, as the end of the school year is a little more than a month away. Hinrichs says you can't stop the learning process.

"We need to go with the status quo, we need to roll on," said Hinrichs.

School district officials say the influx of about 300 high school students into the population of 300 middle schoolers isn’t too big of an issue, as the school is big enough.

The shared space arrangement is expected to last about three weeks.

The Oconto School Board is expected to discuss the fire and its impact Monday evening.