AN optimistic Don Barba stood firm before a fire-ravaged Mt Lawley Primary School yesterday despite its uncertain future.
The resilient principal is confident the deliberately lit fire will do little to crush the community spirit behind the 100-year-old school.
More than 50 firefighters fought to contain Saturday night’s blaze that destroyed 85 per cent of the Second Avenue building.
Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Allen Gale said flames travelled quickly through the school’s timber, but a newer $4.5 million building was spared.
Arson Squad Acting Detective Sergeant Adrian Pearsall said continuing investigations revealed there had been several ignition points.
Mr Barba, who has worked at the school for 12 years, was forced to stand by and watch it burn.
“It was a gut-wrenching experience… it was hard to take,” he said.
“When you go in there and see ashes, it makes you ask why? We’ll go through a grieving period but this is a special community that will move on. Everyone’s committed to making sure students are back. We will build again.”
Premier Colin Barnett said a new facility was expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 school year.
“As soon as the investigations are completed, work will begin almost immediately in clearing up the site and then planning and preparing for the rebuild… (it) will cost somewhere between $7 to $9 million,” he said.
“The most immediate issue is where the children will be located. There’s a couple of options. I reassure parents that the Education Department will relocate the students, keep them together as one school and make sure their education program is not disrupted.”
Nearby Mt Lawley Senior High School is being considered for the 500 students.
North Metropolitan region executive director Jim Webb said the Education Department was still in negotiations to house students.
“It would be taking buildings on to the (high school) school site. We know that we can source 15 buildings already,” Mr Webb said.