The Day My School’s Roof Caught on Fire


Seth Alter – Captain of Industry

Story-time. My old school was poorly, poorly managed. Were your school’s administrators this crappy? Crappier?

In my hometown, the junior high school (7th grade – 9th grade) was across the parking lot from the senior high school (10th grade – 12th grade). This is a really weird setup for an American public school, especially because 9th grade was technically considered part of the high school (but in the wrong building). So, the town decided to expand the Senior High School and include a 9th grade wing to the building.

We had plenty of money, but everything went wrong anyway. Construction was slower than expected, the workers made the bathrooms even smokier than before, and mostly ignored the times/places when they were supposed to be quiet (e.g. test-taking time).

They also set fire to the roof of the building one day in November when I was in 10th grade.

Remember all of those fire drills when you left as a class and lined up outside at predesignated locations? Turns out that real fires are totally different. I was in Chemistry class and the vice principal got on the intercom and shouted “THERE IS A FIRE. EVERYONE EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY.”

We rushed out of the building as fast as we could. We bunched up at the doors and other checkpoints. We fled towards the football field. I don’t know why. Maybe someone had started going that way, and then everyone else followed.

It ended up being kind of fun, actually. I got to hang out on the football bleachers with my friends and talk about Star Wars. The weather was chilly and cloudy and also kinda smokey because the roof was on fire.

Shortly thereafter, school fired the construction workers. Which was a BIG MISTAKE because turns out the school had no backup plan other than letting the unfinished school fall apart for the next three years.

In eleventh grade, the fire alarm went off at least once per week due to electrical shortages. Most of my academic memories from my junior year of high school involve some combination of social angst and fire alarms.

In twelfth grade, there was a computer lab that had a leak in the roof. When there was rain, the computers would get wet. The comp sci teacher set up an umbrella over her desk. Every time the roof leaked, the ceiling tiles would crumble and collapse. The school would just get some replacement ceiling tiles. Eventually, they set up an elaborate drainage system involving a blue tarp, a plastic funnel with a weight on the bottom, and a trash can.

Oh, and half of the teachers quit due to low morale. As did at least 4 principals.

And then there were 15 bomb scares.

But that, as they say, is a story for another time…

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *