Fire at La Crosse High gym doesn’t stop prom

04/12/2014 5:04 PM

08/06/2014 10:52 AM

A fire Saturday morning in the La Crosse High School’s gym didn’t keep students from having their prom as scheduled Saturday night.

Students, parents and members of the western Kansas community about 25 miles south of Hays made sure of it.

The prom was moved to the parish center of St. Michael’s Church, said Bill Keeley, superintendent for La Crosse schools.

“You want to talk about kids and the community pulling together,” Keeley told The Eagle. “They had the center decorated in three or four hours. I was overwhelmed with the response.”

Of the 82 students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 at the school, which also serves as a middle school, 70 had tickets to the prom, Keeley said.

The fire was reported shortly after 4 a.m., Rush County Sheriff Ward Corsair said. The fire originated among the decorations for the prom, he added.

No one was in the gym at the time, he said, and there were no injuries.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Corsair said the state fire marshal told him there was “nothing suspicious” about it.

Students had been in the gym decorating until about 8 or 9 p.m., Keeley said.

The fire originated with a black plastic tarp that students had put up with wires to “give the gym a closed-in, studio effect,” Keeley said.

Most of the damage was caused by smoke, which traveled throughout the school, he added.

“Only a small part of the gym floor burned … about a three-foot square area on the north end,” Keeley said. “That will have to be replaced.

“Burned plastic dripped on the floor, but we think we can sand that area.”

All things considered, Keeley said, “It could have been a lot worse. We could have lost the whole gym, the whole school. There could have been kids in there.

“We’re very fortunate.”

Not to mention the prom could still be held. The quickly summoned decorators from a town of about 1,300 even stayed with the ocean theme planned for the prom, Keeley said.

The only question that remains now is whether there will be school on Monday. A cleaning crew will be working all weekend, making the classrooms, cafeteria and kitchen a priority.

“Right now, we’re planning on having school Monday,” Keeley said. “If the crews progress as they think they will, we’ll make it.”

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