Magherafelt High School fire 'suspicious'
A FIRE at Magherafelt High School on Tuesday morning is being treated as suspicious by the police.
Thick smoke billowed from the windows of the school's Assembly Hall, where the fire was discovered at around 11.30am.
The first step taken by staff was to take a head count of its 520 pupils - with every single pupil accounted for.
Five fire appliances and a support vehicle were at the scene on the Moneymore Road, where the school's alarm could be heard resounding.
A pupil commented that the general feeling was one of “nervous excitement” rather than panic or fear. She said that she had been in an adjoining room to the one in which the fire had broken out.
Two teachers had gone into the Assembly Hall to investigate and had left with their hands covering their mouths and noses, she said.
Headmaster Neil Haugh said that exams were scheduled to take place in the Assembly Room, adding that another room will have to be allocated.
The building was sealed off with red and white security tape by the Fire Service and motorists travelling in the direction of Moneymore were diverted by police, just yards from the school.
Magherafelt District Council Chairman Dr William McCrea, who was at the scene, has been campaigning for new premises for the school “for years.”
“The school is not safe,” he said. “Once again, this shows to everyone what we have been saying and the appeal we have been making.”
He told the MAIL that a recent meeting with the Minister had been “put back twice” but had subsequently been rescheduled for the end of the month.
Mr Haugh added: “Apparently a new school is on its way. We are hoping for an announcement in February.”
However, Dr McCrea said: “We cannot wait until February for an announcement. This building cannot be refurbished. Nothing less than a new building will be acceptable.”
He continued: “Once again we see the glaring example of the discrimination in funds being made available for the controlled sector versus other sectors of education.
“All I'm asking for is fairness of allocation for all. Now, there is no justification whatsoever for a delay in this project.”
Dr McCrea congratulated Mr Haugh and his staff in evacuating the school with such alacrity.
“Their first action was to ensure the safety of the children,” he said. “They did an excellent job.”
The cause of the outbreak has not yet been established but a detailed examination of the scene is being carried out by police.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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