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Antietam Academy fire called accidental

March 02, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- An accidental fire Monday morning left "significant" damage at Antietam Academy near South Hagerstown High School, a fire official said.

A plumber using a soldering torch on a copper pipe burned through a wall, igniting flammable items on the other side, said Kyd Dieterich, a Hagerstown Fire Department battalion chief.

Heavy smoke was pouring out when firefighters arrived shortly after 8:30 a.m.

There were no students in the building at the time, Washington County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael said. The district already had delayed the start of classes for two hours because of the weather.

Students were directed into South High when they arrived.

Tuesday's classes for Antietam Academy, a school for students who have had trouble in a regular school setting, were canceled. School is expected to resume Wednesday, although the location hadn't been decided as of Monday evening.

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There was no exact dollar estimate of the damage. Michael said an insurance representative hadn't looked at it yet.

Unrelated to the fire, the school is scheduled to be replaced next year.

A new Antietam Academy would bring together high school students from the South High campus and middle school students from the Western Heights Middle School campus.

It also would be the home of Evening High School.

The 45,000-square-foot building has been projected to cost about $13 million or $14 million, but likely will cost less, Michael said.

Construction documents will be presented to the school board March 17, he said.

The project will go out to bid in May. Construction would start in the summer and be completed in the fall of 2010, although not necessarily by the beginning of the school year, Michael said.

Currently, Antietam Academy's high and middle schools can handle about 100 students, he said. The new school would accommodate about 200 students.

The building used for Antietam Academy high school is about as old as South Hagerstown High School, which was built in 1956, Michael said.

Two nearby portable classrooms also are used for the school.

Dieterich said firefighters were at the scene for about three hours.

Firefighters from Antietam, South End, First Hose, Pioneer Hook and Ladder were assisted by Funkstown and Halfway.

The Washington County Air Unit was on the scene, along with two ambulances on standby. A fire marshal also went to the scene.

Later in the day, with a smoky smell still lingering, crews working in the cold were shoveling up piles of charred refuse. Windowpanes were missing glass and some were boarded.

Staff writers Erin Julius and Marlo Barnhart contributed to this story.

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