Fire causes significant damage to E.B. school

Board of Education will discuss options at meeting tonight


Afire broke out in a Memorial School classroom last week, resulting in extensive damage to that room and significant smoke and water damage to the rear part of the building.

PHOTOS BY JEFF GRANIT staff Left: An exterior wall at East Brunswick's Memorial School was mostly covered in plywood Tuesday in the aftermath of the July 10 fire at the Innes Road building. Right: A cleanup worker pulls a garbage can with debris from the school. PHOTOS BY JEFF GRANIT staff Left: An exterior wall at East Brunswick’s Memorial School was mostly covered in plywood Tuesday in the aftermath of the July 10 fire at the Innes Road building. Right: A cleanup worker pulls a garbage can with debris from the school. The blaze occurred at the Innes Road elementary school in East Brunswick at 4:45 p.m. July 10, when a custodial worker, who was the only person in the school at the time, heard an alarm and noticed smoke in a hallway. The worker immediately called for police and fire services.

Upon arrival, emergency service personnel found smoke and flames coming from a rear classroom,

as well as from the roof. Firefighters from all three township

fire districts quickly knocked down the three-alarm fire, police said. Fire personnel from Milltown, South River, North Brunswick and New Brunswick assisted the township.

One firefighter was transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, with a minor burn to his ear, according to Police Lt. William Krause.

Though the extent of the damage was still being evaluated, police and school officials both termed the damage as “significant.” Exact details were not available at press time. The damage occurred in the school’s larger wing, which houses grades two through five.

Patricia LaDuca, the school district’s coordinator of community relations and programs, said officials were meeting with representatives of their insurance company Tuesday to discuss the matter. It was unclear whether all of the school building would be ready for use in September.

In a statement, school officials said they were working to determine both short- and long-term solutions for the school, and that the board would hold a special meeting tonight at 8 p.m. at Churchill Junior High School to discuss the issues.

“Parents are welcome; however, since pictures of the fire and damage will be shown, it is strongly suggested that children do not attend,” the statement says.

Asked whether the district would consider installing temporary classroom trailers, LaDuca said various options would be discussed with the insurance company.

“We’ll look at our options and decide what’s best for the school community, and share that with the community on Thursday,” LaDuca said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, and school officials had been given no indication what it may have been as of Tuesday. Police said there was no indication that it was a case of arson.

Forty-three children from a day camp housed at the school had been on a day trip the day of the fire, and had just returned to the property at the time. However, they had not re-entered the building, and camp counselors quickly accounted for all children outside the building. Police escorted the group to St. Bartholomew’s School, Ryders Lane, where parents and guardians then picked them up.

At a scheduled Board of Education meeting at 8 p.m. the night of the fire, the school district’s director of financial services, Joseph Crotchfelt, updated the board on the status of the fire. He explained that the fire had been brought under control, and the district’s insurance company was notified. Superintendent of Schools Jo Ann Magistro and Business Administrator Bernardo Giuliana were absent from the meeting, as they were at the scene of the fire.

Board President Todd Simmens said the fire would not stop the Memorial School from being used in September. He said the district would get though the situation, though “it will just take a little bit of time.”

The school district was providing counselors for students upset by the situation yesterday at Churchill.

“It is important to realize that most children recover from the effects of a crisis with appropriate support from family, friends and school personnel,” according to District Supervisor of Student Services Mary-Anne Love.

In addition, the district is using the school’s Web site, available at, to give parents suggestions on how to address their children’s reactions. Also, parents can call 732-613-6868 to make arrangements for student counseling, if needed.

In the statement, Magistro thanked the township’s fire, police and emergency management personnel who responded to the fire.

“The township’s first responders did an exceptional job of controlling the fire,” the statement said. She also thanked the community members and local businesses who reached out to offer assistance.

Magistro and Memorial School Principal Pam Mayo will continue to update the community through Global Connect, the district’s broadcast calling system, as well as the Web site.

The Memorial School, built in the 1950s off Milltown Road, is the township’s third-oldest elementary school, behind Central and Bowne-Munro. Though it was considered for inclusion the recent $106 million referendum that brought additions and renovations to the Central, Lawrence Brook and Hammarskjold schools, it was not included in those improvements.