Arson Won't Close West Hempstead School

Elementary school should be open in time for the start of school

By Greg Cergol
|  Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010  |  Updated 5:30 PM EDT
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Arson Won't Close West Hempstead School

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The fire that damaged a West Hempstead elementary school won't delay the start of class in September, school district officials said. Monday night's fire at the George Washington elementary school has been declared an arson, according to Nassau county police.

"My daughter cried when she heard the news," said parent Charlie Smith. "It's sad."

The fire did extensive damage to portable classrooms used by first and second graders in the school, said police and school personnel. No one was in the school at the time of the fire and no one was hurt.

"It was scary," said neighbor Rose Marie Deleo. "Flames were shooting through the roof."

More than 100 firefighters from five departments doused the flames. Witnesses heard several bangs and saw teens running from the back of the school, said Nassau Police Detective Lieutenant Kevin Smith.

"The teens were heard asking each other if they were hurt," added Smith. "That leads us to believe the fire was set."

How the fire was started and what was used remains under investigation. During the fire, West Hempstead schools superintendent John Hogan collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, according to police and school officials.

"It's lucky an ambulance was right there," said West Hempstead firefighter Daniel McCabe, who said Hogan suffered an apparent heart attack. "The crew used a defibrillator to revive him."

Hogan is now alert and resting comfortably, according to the school district website.

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