Classes resume today at elementary school after fire takes life of school janitor

Classes resume today at elementary school after fire takes life of school janitor

POSTED: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 11:15am

UPDATED: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 11:19am

Classes will resume again today following a fire at Vidrine Elementary School. But sadly, one beloved member of the school's staff won't be there. 

The Vidrine elementary school family is mourning the loss of one of their own. A fire in a storage building at the school early Monday morning led investigators to a heart-breaking discovery.

"We found this building behind me with flames coming out of it. Upon arrival we were told there was a missing janitor. So we immediately began an interior search and rescue and in approximately ten minutes we located the man who was DOA." stated Garry Reed, Fire District Chief.

Donald Thomas was the school's head custodian and worked there for more than 20 years. Assistant principal of Vidrine elementary, Gregory Guilloy said, "He's always been hard working dependable, you could always depend on him for anything you needed."

Everyone we spoke with had great things to say about Mr. Donald and his impact on the staff and students at the school.

Vidrine Elementary Principal, Sherral Tezeno, said of Thomas, "He always spoke with them, they knew him by name. If they needed something they would know to call Mr. Donald. Mr. Donald's coming, where is Mr. Donald, and he was always right there to assist at anytime."

It took more than 2 dozen firefighters to control the blaze, which caused the cancellation of classes at Vidrine elementary and a feeder school, Evangeline central. But right now, the focus is on finding answers to what started the fire-- and remembering a dedicated employee who meant so much to so many.

"It's going to be something we need to work through, we will work through this together. They're going to miss him, terribly." added principal Tezeno.

Classes resumed this morning, Tuesday, March 6, with a special team on-hand to help students and staff cope with the loss.

Tezeno added, "Our district counselors will report to Vidrine elementary to work with the staff and the student body as we prepare them for what is taking place and we will work therapeutically with all of them."

School Supervisor Grace Sibley said, "He will be sorely missed. This school is really a family and a team, and everyone loved him, his family, and we just pray for the strength to be able to get through this."

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Grief counselors will be at the school today to talk with students and staff.

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