Two teens held in high school arson
With an outpouring of community support, Lee Vining High School students and staff are recovering from the shock of finding their school destroyed by fire over the weekend.
The high school, which is in Mono County, Calif., about 80 miles south of Gardnerville on Highway 395, suffered major damage this weekend after two juvenile males apparently set the school on fire.
The Mono County Sheriff’s Department has arrested a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old. One boy was home-schooled and one was a student at Lee Vining.
Sheriff Daniel Paranick said community members came forward with information that enabled the department to identify the two boys who were involved.
According to a press release, the juveniles both confessed to the break-in, vandalism and arson of the Lee Vining High School. They were also charged with several incidences of petty theft and auto vandalism that occurred in the community the same day.
n Six points. An arson investigator called in from Fresno and area investigators found six points of origin in the school, Paranick said.
The investigation is ongoing and both juveniles are in custody at an Inyo County juvenile detention facility. A hearing is set for Oct. 1.
Superintendent of the East Sierra School District, Bill Schmidt said the 25 students in 9th through 12th grade are now being housed in the Presbyterian church. The district’s 23 students in 7th and 8th grade are continuing classes in a portable classroom loaned to them by the Mono County Office of Education.
“What I said to the students yesterday is Lee Vining is more than a building. It is traditions and memories and those can happen in any building. We are going to go on,” he said.
The students are “hurt and disappointed,” but are adjusting to the loss of their school.
The district is also adjusting. Four portable classrooms will be delivered within three weeks after a phone call to the Office of School Construction in Sacramento, Schmidt said.
Today, an architect will be helping the district prepare facilities for the portable.
“I think we have been real fortunate. The response we have gotten from people all over has been outstanding. People have called and offered furniture and school supplies,” he said.
The fire destroyed two of seven total classrooms and the gymnasium, Schmidt said.
The rest of the building received major water and smoke damage.
Many items were saved by the swift action of the many fire departments and passers-by that responded to the 6 a.m. fire.Saturday.
Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, June Lake Fire Department, Mono City and Bridgeport Volunteer firefighters responded to a mutual aid call.
“The local fire department and the other departments did a fantastic job,” Schmidt said. “The investigator from the department of forestry said in his 21 years on the job, he has seldom seen a better response from a fire department.”
n Tour group helped. Schmidt said community members and even a tour group got off their bus to help pull office equipment and documents from some of the areas of the school.
Schmidt said he also wanted to thank the staff of the school for pulling everything together in time to start classes on Monday.
“The staff did an outstanding job,” he said. The school has four full-time teachers.
The school was constructed in 1960 and classes were first held in the fall of 1961.
Paranick said to rebuild the same size school at today’s standards could cost up to $3 million.
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