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‘Suspicious’ Fire Guts Edison Elementary School

Fire damage at the James Monroe School in Edison
Fire damage at the James Monroe School in Edison (Edison Office of Emergency Management)

A fast moving fire destroyed the James Monroe Elementary School in Edison on Saturday night.

A fire burns at the James Monroe Elementary School in Edison
A fire burns at the James Monroe Elementary School in Edison (Middlesex Police, Fire and EMS Facebook page)

Edison Mayor Thomas Lankey tells ABC 7 the 6-alarm fire that destroyed the 50-year-old school is being investigated as “suspicious” because of how quickly it spread.

MyCentralJersey.com tweets that the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into the fire.

Firefighters were still at the school on Sharp Road, not far from Route 1, on Sunday morning. A dozen firefighters suffered smoke inhalation according to the Star-Ledger, and the blaze took three hours to bring under control. Fire companies from New Brunswick, South Plainfield, Hopelawn and Metuchen responded.

In a message posted on the Edison Township Public School website, Board of Education President Gene I. Maeroff wrote that classes for Monroe students have been cancelled for Monday and Tuesday. ” We all know that Edison’s schools are severely overcrowded and finding space for the displaced students will not be easy. But all necessary steps will be taken to ensure that the education of the students is disrupted to the least extent.

In an additional note posted Sunday night, Maeroff wrote that class would resume on Wednesday at Middlesex Community College. Details would be announced at the Monday night meeting.

Maeroff took note of the important role the school has played in the neighborhood. “Many adults and older students in Edison remember their days at Monroe. Parents of today’s students know that having the school nearby and knowing that their children were safe in the building was a source of reassurance,” wrote Maeroff.

A parent meeting and press conference takes place Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at Edison High School according to the district website. Counseling services are also available for students, staff or Edison residents at the Education Center located at 312 Pierson Avenue in Edison.

Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan told MyCentralJersey.com no one was in the building when the fire broke out around 8 p.m. and appears to have started in a computer lab and library at the front of the building.

“This is absolutely a devastating tragedy for our school community, and words can’t begin to say how hard it is for our community,” Edison Public Schools Supt. Richard O’Malley told CBS New York on Saturday.

A tearful Lynda Zapoticzny, the school’s principal for the past 11 years, described the fire to the Star-Ledger as “someone ripping your heart out.”

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