Palmer High Fire Results in Students Missing Two Weeks

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Palmer High Fire Results in Students Missing Two Weeks

Front Entrance to Palmer High School.

Front Entrance to Palmer High School.

Credit to 22 New Team

Front Entrance to Palmer High School.

Credit to 22 New Team

Credit to 22 New Team

Front Entrance to Palmer High School.

Renee Chaples, Producer of the Void

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Palmer High School, one of the two remaining schools left in the Palmer Schools System, suffered from a fire on Saturday, March 9. This resulted in the school being closed for two weeks.

The fire was caused by improper disposal of a rag with linseed oil, oil used to polish woods. The rag, which was disposed of via a trash can, spontaneously combusted. Although small, the fire produced an immense amount of smoke that damaged classrooms on the fourth and first floor and destroyed the library.

While the smoke was being cleaned out and repairs were being made, teachers were kept busy, emailing students and setting up times in the public library to continue classes. This was especially for the advanced placement students with test dates and mock exams coming up.

Many believe that the fire could have been avoided if the schools had a sprinkler system. Although current building codes require all schools to have a sprinkler system and vent shafts for the smoke to escape, Palmer High School was built before those codes were mandatory and they got away with not having one. While all the smoke was being cleared, one question still remained: what could this mean for the students?

During a meeting on Wednesday, March 13, Palmer High administrators announced the return to school on March 25, and changes that will be made for students, especially seniors, to be able to get out of school on time. Amongst these changes, 33 minutes were added to the school day, meaning instead of the usual 1:51 dismissal, students would be dismissed at 2:16. The normal 4 minute passing time has been shortened to 2 minutes. All of the bells that signify the end of class have been adjusted to reflect these changes.

Alongside that, seniors are being monitored very closely for attendance since missing one day or even being tardy could result in them not graduating. The state of Massachusetts mandates that seniors must have 162 days of school in order to graduate and the Palmer High seniors have had 6 of those days waived. Students who have upcoming college visits or who are attending the France Trip are allowed to still go and will be counted for as a school day. All the other grades attending Palmer High have had three days waived from their mandated amount and like the seniors are expected to attend school as frequently as possible.

Since the fire occurred right as the Winter Sports season was coming to an end and Spring Sports were supposed to begin, an informational night was scheduled to be on March 18, and March 19 for Winter Sports. They were to be held in Pathfinder’s cafeteria. During the informational night, coaches announced the return of practices to be that next day in the Old Mill Pond Parking lot from 4 to 5:30.  Parents were also given the chances to sign up their child and pay the $75 participation fee. During the Winter Sports Night, coaches and teams met from the previous seasonal sports to acknowledge the student-athletes and their efforts on each team.

Due to the vast amount of school supplies lost in the fire, the school has been receiving many donations from local businesses and other schools. Monson Savings Bank has donated $3,000 to schools and Big Y has donated $10,000 for a grand total of $13,000 to go towards new supplies and rebuilding. Even Palmer High’s longtime rival, Ware High School, visited the reopening ceremony on the 25th to donate supplies. Missy Briggs-Lefferts told 22 News, “I understand what my faculty-friends are going through. So, we just wanted to do a little something.” Briggs-Lefferts was accompanying the Ware students during the ceremony. Thankfully, the damage is done, and everyone has returned to their (almost) normal schedules.