DOS PALOS — The framework is being done at Dos Palos High School for a new ag building that will replace the one that burned in 2009.
“We’re looking toward starting the fall of 2014 in the new facility for our ag classes,” said Heather Ruiz, principal.
A fire in 2009, reportedly in the wood shop area, burned the entire building to the ground.
Ruiz, who was vice principal then, said she can still remember hearing the fire alarms go off. The fire happened at the end of the lunch period, she said.
“Word traveled fast that it’s a real fire and not a drill,” Ruiz said. “It started in the wood shop was the determination, but there was no cause (of the fire) found.”
The agriculture classrooms and shop area, auto classroom and shop area, wood classroom and shop area and a computer lab were consumed.
“With the collaboration with the staff and the sense of urgency, students knew that it was real,” she said. “Students went to the areas that we designate as our fire evacuation areas. It was chaos.”
It didn’t take long for the flames to spread, Ruiz said, and the whole school could see the flames rise as tall as the other buildings. She said it was about two wings of classrooms.
“We later found out that the fire department was able to contain it and it didn’t touch the rest of the campus,” she said.
While the students and staff waited for the insurance claim to go through, permanent classrooms were placed on another part of the campus.
“They are called portables, but they are actually permanent rooms,” she said. “They look like regular buildings.”
Ruiz said these permanent rooms will be kept for other classes when the teachers and students move into the new building.
The new ag building is designed differently from the old building. The classrooms and the shops will feature horseshoe-shaped bays on the inside, and the outside will replicate the gymnasium and its modern style.
“Considering we are an ag community,” she said, “the size of the shops that they’re in now, compared to what they had (are) dramatically different, especially for our shop classes.”
Ruiz said students will have extra space for working on welding and other projects when the new building is complete.
Although the space has been limited, Ruiz said staff and students have adjusted well.
“Going from a huge facility down to what they’re in now,” she said, “they’ve been very patient and cooperative.”
The school employs two ag teachers, one auto shop teacher and one wood shop teacher.
All ag classrooms will be built in the first phase of the project, which is expected to be complete in June. The second phase will follow and include the wood shop and auto shop.
“We’re excited about that because the process has taken so long,” Ruiz said.
Dos Palos High School has about 670 students.
Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209)826-3831, ext. 6562, or firstname.lastname@example.org.