Cleanup continues at fire-damaged Oconto High School

Crews work to remove smoke damage from the boys bathroom at Oconto High School, April 30, 2014. (WLUK/Gabrielle Mays)
Crews work to remove smoke damage from the boys bathroom at Oconto High School, April 30, 2014. (WLUK/Gabrielle Mays)

OCONTO - Work continues to move forward at Oconto High School.

The building was heavily damaged by a fire two weeks ago. But administrators say the school is still expected to reopen May 12.

"The whole bathroom has been demolished and what you're going to see in there is the start of the reconstruction," J. Murphy, a large loss specialist with Paul Davis National.

Police say a 16-year-old student smoking a hand-rolled cigarette inside a bathroom stall started the fire causing an estimated $5 million in damage.

Some of the construction includes around 300 workers hammering through walls and cleaning every book and shelf in the library.

Once all of the classrooms are cleaned, crews will have to strip and wax all of the floors. Crews will also replace the ceiling tiles.

But some things will look different when students return like the artwork along the wall just a few feet away from where the fire started.

"We've already cleaned the walls but there's still a significant amount of soot that's imbedded into the block. All of these walls will be sealed and painted," Murphy said.

School board member John Pinkart toured the high school Wednesday to assess the damage.

"It's quite a shock to walk in and see this," said Pinkart.

The district wants to update the school by adding new fire alarms, smoke detectors and a sprinkler system. To do that, they'll have to ask voters for help.

School board members met Monday to talk about a referendum but they didn't make a decision.

"Because we want to make sure that the community advisory team, which is 38 members strong and has been looking at the cost of the facility needs," said Sarah Croney, district superintendent.

Croney says the district still doesn't know how much upgrades will cost but school officials will meet again on Sunday.

Teachers will be allowed to move books and other supplies back into their classrooms next week.

The superintendent says the referendum will be discussed at the next school board meeting in May.

If the referendum is approved, it will be on the August 12 ballot.