Elizabeth Forward High School alumni react to school’s recent fire

Written By Cassandra Harris, News Editor

On Sunday, February 12 at 5:30 a.m., a fire erupted at Elizabeth Forward (EF) High School. It was contained to one side of the school, causing severe damages to the auditorium and band wing. 

According to a school fire-update letter sent out to families the extensive damage caused the school to be closed until further notice. High school students began remote learning on Valentine’s Day after not having class the day before.

The fire came as a shock to freshman accounting major and recent Elizabeth Forward graduate Andrew Gault. He was glad to hear that no one was injured from the fire, but became concerned about class pets after hearing the news. 

“Two classes, at least one or two of them did have live animals in them that I was pretty worried about [after] hearing about the fire,” Gault said. “The one classroom had a snake, but both of them were OK given where they were. In general, it was just shocking.”

From his perspective Gault thought that the school did a good job in ensuring fire safety. 

“I was really shocked because when I went there, we routinely made sure that at least from a student standpoint, we routinely made sure that everything was safe,” Gault said. “I never once felt like anything like that would ever even happen. We always had fire drills consistently and none of our equipment or anything seemed old enough to just randomly catch on fire.”

To Jonathan Hresko, a cinema arts student at Point Park and recent graduate from Elizabeth Forward, the fire was almost expected, as he thought the building was outdated. Although an official cause has not been identified, he said the fire was allegedly an electrical one. 

“We had tech rooms with MacBooks and all that, but we never got air conditioning,” Hresko said. “Everyone was in want and need of a new building. It was old; you could just tell things were falling apart. Things were always replaced, or stains in the ceiling, no air conditioning.”

The disaster most affects the music program and theater program at Elizabeth Forward. In a letter sent out by the superintendent, it said that this fire came three days before the band’s trip to Disney. So that their trip could continue, other schools stepped up to lend instruments.

Gault was a football player in high school but occasionally helped the theater program fundraise.

“[This] definitely has had a major impact; our entire music hallway is pretty much gone,” Gault said.” Our Cedar department lost everything that they had over the last five months. We always take our plays very seriously and they’ve always been really good. The students that participate in those things are definitely impacted.”

The district is currently looking for ways to continue school activities as normal. Multiple schools have already offered to lend their auditoriums to the theater program. Gault reflected on the strong school spirit at Elizabeth Forward and how students would feel if these damages continued to affect programs and athletics in the future.

“I know definitely we like our football team as students in general, so not being able to go to the games and everything would definitely make a lot of people feel a little bummed out,” Gault said. “Especially for like some of the seniors. Like if next year, if they still are not doing events, it’s definitely gonna bum them out. They’re pretty big student events.”

Hresko sees the fire as an opportunity for the district to remodel. Despite the disaster he also believes that his previous peers and current students at the school will try to make the best of the situation. 

“They’re very strong individuals, very stubborn individuals,” Hresko said. “I know a good bit of kids in the program and what I see them doing, they’re very disheartened about it. I would say a lot of them are sad, upset, et cetera but a lot of them are still pushing they’re EF strong.”

According to the fire-update letter, Senator Jim Brewster, Representative Andrew Kuzma, and Deputy Secretary of Education, Jeff Fuller have toured the school to assess the damages. A controlled demolition in the auditorium is underway.