Henrico County Public School officials have decided to cancel classes at Tuckahoe Elementary School Tuesday and Wednesday after a weekend fire.
The closure will give staff time to ready Short Pump Middle School, where students will begin attending class Thursday. Officials hope the move will only last a couple weeks, while Tuckahoe Elementary is restored to normal conditions.
Major cleanup remains underway at the school in Henrico's West End. Smoke billowed through the building Sunday afternoon, after an electrical fire triggered five fire trucks to rush to the scene. A fire captain says 75 percent of the school is covered in soot.
Tuckahoe Elementary School closed Monday for students. Staff was told to report at 11 a.m., unless they have respiratory issues.
Henrico School officials say there's no way they can let students into the building with the huge amount of smoke damage left from a relatively small fire. Firefighters forced their way into the school, after the smoke alarm sounded at about 1 p.m. They say heavy gray clouds filled the hallways.
"Because of where the fire was, smoke filled not only the bottom level, but the top level also," said Henrico Fire Captain Marshall Nelson.
Neighbor Page Booth watched fire crews blast water into the building.
"I saw all of the fire trucks, and the flashing lights, and the people running in," described Booth. "I could not imagine if it was this time tomorrow, with children in the school, when they had to evacuate and fight the fire."
Henrico School Safety Coordinator Chris Bailor says an electrical fire is to blame. She says a sofa in the lobby caught some minor flames. Thankfully, there was little damage to the building itself.
"Not much," said Bailor. "Maybe some blistering of paint."
The issue remaining is the toxic soot left by smoke. Cleanup trucks lined the school. Bailor says that much of everything is covered in soot, from the walls and furniture, to papers and computers on a desk.
"Everything you touch, your hands are going to get black. If you rub up against it, your clothes are going to get black," said Bailor.
Crews will work continuously until the school is ruled safe, once again.
Bailor says the air quality was tested and is again at a safe level. School officials are hoping to bring children back on Tuesday. However, they say those decisions will be made based on the progress of the cleanup.
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