Community rallies after school fire

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013
Beckenham School
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ

BACK IN BUSINESS: Beckenham School librarian Anne Chin with pupils in the library set up in a classroom after the last one was destroyed by fire.

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Instead of tears and stress, losing a library in a fire has resulted in a showcase of community spirit at Christchurch's Beckenham School.

A classroom has been converted into a temporary library, book donations have come from far and wide, and parents are helping librarian Anne Chin to label the books and stock the shelves.

The fire, which destroyed the library and a multi-purpose learning room on January 10, was started by a child playing with a lighter. Police say it was accidental.

The same day, blustery northwesterlies fanned a wildfire that tore through two homes and several properties over 150 hectares near Prebbleton. The cause of that fire is still being investigated.

Chin said the school lost about 7500 books in the blaze, but it already had 2200 new and donated books on the shelves, with another 800 to be catalogued.

She learnt of the fire through Facebook and rushed to the school.

"I thought I'd be in tears and devastated," she said.

"My first instincts were, 'Gosh, do I still have a job?'

"[Principal Sandy Hastings] said, 'Yes but the job description might have changed a bit'."

Chin said she had been "pushed along" by the "hands-on" community response.

"Every day we have new books come in. It hasn't been sad. It's been exciting."

Parents were on a roster labelling books and stocking shelves and the children were enthusiastic about getting books they had never had, she said.

Paper Plus Barrington is selling books for the school library at 30 per cent off. Hastings said other shops in the area had put boxes at the door for book donations.

Fendalton Open-air School children marked International Book Giving Day yesterday by bringing in books or donations for Beckenham School.

"I'd be devastated if we lost our books," librarian Desna Wallace said.

Hastings said the school had taken an "accidents happen" approach to the fire.

She had met the Ministry of Education over a replacement library and it had indicated it wanted to consider the school's property needs at the same time.

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