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School resumes Thursday following fire

— Grand Coulee Dam School District students are getting an unexpected day off today while repairs are made to a breaker box that began smoking yesterday morning.

Kitchen staff reported an odor like burning wire Tuesday around 9:05 a.m., Superintendent Dennis Carlson said. A principal investigated and pulled the fire alarm.

The building was evacuated. Students and staff were in their assigned evacuation areas when the first fire responders arrived, he said.

No flames or smoke were visible, “but when it was determined that we would not be getting back into the building immediately, the students and staff were directed to go to the old (Lake Roosevelt High School) gym.”

The district houses all K-12 students in a new building that opened in September. The old gym is separated from the new building and is still in use.

“The move to the gym went well. Our high school leadership students helped our school staff to seat all our students in the gym, segregated by grade level,” Carlson said.

He and the kitchen staff conferred about lunch – what was on hand and where more could be obtained.

“We were ready to order take out from Safeway and Harvest Foods to supplement what we had only if it looked like we would be allowed back into the building,” he said.

The fire responders, Walker Construction staff and district maintenance staff determined the odor was coming from a breaker box in the kitchen.

Walker Construction disabled the breaker box so the interior could be inspected.

“It appears that there is a minor amount of burned wire insulation leading to one breaker that will need to be replaced,” Carlson said, adding that it’s not yet known if other breakers need to be replaced.

The district lost use of two large ovens and the dishwasher.

“When it became apparent that we would not be allowed back in the building today, I had the transportation department notified to inform them that we would be doing an early dismissal,” Carlson said.

Staff notified parents and made sure students were accounted for and put on the correct buses. By 11 a.m., all students had left the school grounds and the office staff “continued to verify that walking students made it home,” he said.

Carlson decided to cancel school today because of repairs being made and the need for the fire chief to OK occupancy.

Staff is working today, with the day taking the place of an end-of-year waiver day for training. A formal debriefing is planned.

The school year probably will be extended by one day, but the School Board will need to make that decision, Carlson said.

The district’s emergency response went according to plan, he said.

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