Teen trio arrested over school blaze

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 12/08/2014
Paraparaumu School
MAARTEN HOLL/ Fairfax NZ

‘‘SENSELESS DAMAGE": Paraparaumu School will be closed all week, but is hopeful of reopening next week. Principal Steven Caldwell said other schools had offered to take pupils temporarily while the classrooms were repaired. 

Paraparaumu School
CONOR HARDCASTLE
INFERNO: Fire rips through buildings at Paraparaumu School. The school is closed for the week.
Paraparaumu School
WORK LOST: Paraparaumu School principal Steven Caldwell.

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Three teenage girls have been arrested after a fire that destroyed four classrooms and a library at Paraparaumu School.

Detective Inspector George Faalogo, of Kapiti, said yesterday that "police have apprehended three young people" in relation to the fire.

They would appear in the Porirua Youth Court but a date had not been confirmed.

Kapiti police said the young teenagers were known to police and to Child, Youth and Family.

The Ruapehu St school, due to celebrate its 125th anniversary in November, lost all its old photos and archives in the fire, which started about 7.15pm on Sunday.

Principal Steven Caldwell was relieved there had been an arrest.

"At least they have got somebody. I do not know what gets in people's heads to do that kind of mindless stuff.

"I do not believe they have any idea of the ramifications of what an hour's worth of stupidity has done to the community, the parents and children.

"It seems so senseless, there is such a big consequence for those involved."

The school will be closed this week but Caldwell was optimistic it would reopen next week.

Fire Service and police investigators completed a scene examination yesterday.

Caldwell believed smoke detectors were activated but "the fire was so fierce it took off into the ceiling cavity and that was that".

He was determined the school would bounce back, stronger than ever, and still planned to celebrate the 125th anniversary.

"Today is the first day of the rebuild. I have had support from all the local principals of offering space and temporary accommodation for our kids. We will make use of that.

"I really feel for the teachers - some have lost their life's work."

Karen Theurl has been teaching new entrants at the school for 14 years and was standing outside the school in tears yesterday morning, gazing at the charred remains of her classroom.

"My class has gone. The classroom is life. It is not just a building, it has a heart. It is a tragedy for everybody and the kids."

Another teacher, Ashley Collins, said it was very sad "but we will come back, better than ever".

Kapiti Mayor Ross Church said the loss of memorabilia was "the terrible part".

"Buildings can be replaced - it is the memorabilia."

He added: "But people are the main thing."

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