Work underway to replace burned Dos Palos High School building


The flames that tore through several shops and classrooms in December of 2009 are still fresh in the minds of administrators.

Superintendent Dr. Brian Walker said, "My phone started going crazy with phone calls and text messages and pictures and the flames were shooting maybe 75 feet in the air."

Walker rushed home from a conference in San Diego to find all of the students and staff were safe, but the fire caused millions of dollars in damage. Forensic investigators determined it somehow started in a scrap wood box and ultimately destroyed two buildings that housed the wood and auto shops plus the agriculture shop and classroom.

Dr. Walker said, "There was 50 or 60 years of equipment, tools, unique farm machinery, all that was in there too and everything was lost."

Crews are now starting from scratch to rebuild the facility where countless members of this small community learned about the agriculture industry. Dr. Walker says the district has spent the past three and a half years negotiating with the insurance company and setting aside about three million extra dollars to pay for the project.

"We're going to do it in phases, and so it's the agricultural shop that will come back first. That was the biggest lost, and that will be about 6 million to do that, probably about 3 million to do two other shops," said Walker.

The school is using these portables in the meantime, which will eventually be turned into regular classrooms.

Principal Heather Ruiz said that extra space will allow the campus to get rid of its oldest facilities while enjoying the new ones. "It is an exciting time for us because we are an agriculture community. We have huge support from parents and community members from the agriculture industry, so it makes us proud, and I know our community is going to be proud of our new facility too."

The first building is expected to be complete by June of next year, and the next phases will follow when the money is available.

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