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Use of JFK iffy for start of school year

Inspecting damage from blast, then repairs, await. Students may need temporary home.

EXETER -- Windows shattered, inside walls cracked, ceiling panels and light fixtures fell at John F. Kennedy Elementary School when the house next door in Exeter blew to bits abruptly Saturday.

Had it been a school day, about 175 students would have been at serious risk. As it is, they might still be looking for a temporary home if repairs can’t be made in time for the start of classes at the end of this month.

Wyoming Area School District Superintendent Ray Bernardi said Monday that people from Highland Associates had been through the building and would probably give a report by Wednesday. An insurance adjustor is scheduled to tour the building today. After that, the district and School Board can decide on a next step.

Along with shattered windows and cracked cinder block on some inside walls, the force of the blast broke several doors and damaged the roof, Bernardi said. The outside brick walls appear undamaged, though that won’t be confirmed until Highland gives its findings. The biggest question is whether the building is still structurally sound. If not, the odds go up dramatically that students will need to find a new home until repairs are completed.

Even if all the damage is relatively minor, Bernardi said, there’s still a possibility that repair work wouldn’t get finished in time for the start of school. The district has already made arrangements with nearby St. Anthony Church, which has enjoyed a warm relationship with the district for years. The parish has agreed to let the district use its facilities, including a family center, if necessary. “That’s my contingency plan right now,” Bernardi said.

The blast, which police have said they suspect was not an accident, leveled the house next door Saturday and critically injured the homeowner, David Lamoreaux.

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