Community still in shock during immediate rebuild; students relocated to Viscount Bennett Centre

WPSEdited4Residents surrounding Willow Park School – located on 343 Willow Park Dr S.E. – are still reeling over a sudden blaze that engulfed the building on the night of Oct. 9, 2013.

The fire, in which arson is suspected to be the cause, damaged several classrooms, hallways, and school supplies. Large rocks were also found near windows that had appeared to be smashed during a forced entry.

“I was just shocked and thought ‘It can’t be us and it must be a mistake,’” said Tracy Danberger, music program coordinator at Willow Park School, a public elementary and junior high school.

“But then when I saw the smoke I raced over.”

Fortunately, there was no one injured as the fire occurred during the night when students and teachers were not in the building.

One classroom saw the brunt of the damage, as the entire room lay in ruins of black ash. Other classrooms were also compromised, and everything in the vicinity will need to be thoroughly cleaned due to extensive smoke contamination. WillParkFireOne of the rooms in Willow Park School was reduced to a smoldering, black mass, leaving little behind in the wreckage.

Photo by Brandon McNeil

Carol McCrae, whose daughter Lexi McCrae is a student at Willow Park School, is one of many concerned parents who are being affected by the fire. McCrae expressed her concern over someone having such malicious intent towards a school, but is confident that Willow Park School will rebound and carry on.

“I don’t know. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting revenge because that school can be so wonderful. But I do believe it was targeted,” McCrae said.

In response, the Calgary Board of Education has already instituted a plan for nearly 650 Willow Park School students to move classes over to the Viscount Bennett Centre – located on 2519 Richmond Road S.W. – where the community hopes that life can quickly return to normal.

“I was just in awe how the teachers, staff and the board have worked so quickly to come up with a solution,” McCrae said.

WPSEdited3 copyOnly two days after the fire, clean-up crews were hard at work all over the school.

Photo by Brandon McNeilTeachers and staff at Willow Park School are also confident that they will be able to pick up where they left off without problem.

“We’re hopefully going to go with business as usual,” Danberger said.

“We’ll get in there a couple days before the kids and try and make it as regular as possible and go on, hopefully, uninterrupted.”

In addition, transit routes will be adjusted to get the kids to and from the centre free of charge in one of the many kind gestures being offered to Willow Parks School’s students. St . John’s and Long & McQuade have also offered their help in an effort to rebuild the schools notable music program.

“It really is of the utmost importance for our kids and for all of us,” said Danberger.

The scary event is also doing nothing to deter the community’s strength and faith in their collective safety and it is clear that Willow Park School will be able to shake this off and be stronger than ever.

“I believe our kids are 100 per cent safe,” Danberger said.

“There’s nothing any of us wouldn’t do to keep them safe. I don’t think our community is in any more danger than the rest of the communities in our city.”

No charges have been laid at this time. 

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