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Doherty High School cancels classes, students only reporting for special events

May 18, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 6:17 am
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photo - Doherty's main gym, which has been deemed safe, reopened for a few hours on Thursday for the traditional final celebratory assembly for seniors. Photo by Debbie Kelley, The Gazette.
Doherty's main gym, which has been deemed safe, reopened for a few hours on Thursday for the traditional final celebratory assembly for seniors. Photo by Debbie Kelley, The Gazette. 

Air quality concerns at Doherty High School have canceled classes for the remainder of the school year, though students must still report for special events, officials say.

The schedule change comes after two fires at the school last week and has disappointed seniors who were looking forward to celebrating their last school days.

"It was definitely really stressful not knowing what was going on and how everything would turn out," said Jilian Lahey, this year's valedictorian.

Students were sent home shortly after school started on May 11 after a piece of wood smoldered in an art room kiln and burned nearby plastic, filling the school with thick, black smoke.

Then, around 11:30 a.m., a dryer in a school laundry room caught fire, compounding the damage.

A week later, air quality is still uncertain.

"They've tested several areas throughout the building, and the information was really inconclusive," said D-11 spokeswoman Devra Ashby.

However, higher levels of ash and soot were detected in some parts of the school, she said.

Air ducts and other fixtures are being scrubbed, and more air quality tests will be done, according to Ashby.

"We're being proactive in thoroughly cleaning the building this week to avoid potential issues," she said.

The main gym, which has been deemed safe, is reopening for a few hours on Thursday for the traditional final celebratory assembly for seniors. They'll also be able to clean out their lockers.

"It's a little sad, us not knowing that last Wednesday was going to be our last day," Lahey said.

No classes have been held for the past week. Seniors were able to turn in homework and make up tests to teachers at D-11's professional development office at the Tesla Education Center.

"Staff have been allowing us to make up grades and turn in missing assignments," Lahey said. "If you needed help, you could reach out. Everybody has been good at reaching out to students."

On Friday morning, the customary yearbook distribution will take place in the main gym.

Underclassmen will be able to tie up loose ends and clean out their lockers in a limited format next week, Ashby said.

Freshmen are asked to report to the gym from 7:40 a.m. to noon on Monday. The annual senior academic awards ceremony also will be held in the gym, at 7 p.m.

The school building will be closed Tuesday for graduation. Sophomores can come to the gym Wednesday morning, and juniors on Thursday morning. Friday is reserved for student-teacher meetings by appointment.

"We know this past week has been tumultuous, and we sincerely appreciate your 'We' before 'Me' attitude shown through your flexibility and support of Sparta," Principal Kevin Gardner wrote in a letter to students.

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