Office fire delays opening of Hammond Eastside Elementary

Hammond Eastside Elementary School will not be ready by Monday, the first day of school in Tangipahoa Parish, after a fire incinerated one of the school’s offices Wednesday morning, Superintendent Mark Kolwe said Thursday.

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board has called a special meeting for Friday to discuss the extent of the damage and whether to declare an emergency to perform necessary repairs at the school.

Kolwe said Thursday that crews were still investigating the scope of the damage but that officials know repairs won’t be completed by Monday. He said school officials are still generating cost estimates for repairs and working on a timeline to complete them.

Kolwe said he knows for sure that a substantial amount of the school’s ceiling tiles will have to be replaced because of smoke damage.

The School Board may announce Friday when the school will be ready, Kolwe said.

“I know it’s going to cause a delay in the start,” Kolwe said. “A lot depends on what these architects and contractors tell me.”

The school system puts enough days in the school year so that a delay in any school’s start won’t affect its education timeline too much, Kolwe said.

Firefighters arrived at Hammond Eastside, 45050 River Road, around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and found flames coming out of an administrative office, Hammond Fire Chief John Thomas said.

Faculty and staff were at the school for meetings, but had already evacuated the building by the time firefighters arrived, Thomas said. No students were on campus, and nobody was injured.

The fire was contained to the office, but the room received a “considerable amount of damage,” Thomas has said. Smoke did travel through classrooms and hallways.

Foul play is not suspected in the blaze, Thomas has said.

State Fire Marshal’s Office investigators conducted an inspection as a precaution, Thomas said.

Teachers were meeting in a multipurpose building in the school when someone stepped outside and saw smoke, Kolwe has said.

While the fire itself was contained to the office, smoke reached the attic and damaged other parts of the building, Kolwe has said.