After a fire scorched the classroom Tuesday, Los Alamitos students began their first day of preschool Thursday morning.
About 14 children from the city’s Ready Set Go! preschool program met at a Los Alamitos Community Center room just yards away from the singed site of their former classroom.
At about 9:15 a.m., with the hint of a smell of smoke still lingering in the air, preschool teacher Barbara Brown welcomed her students with a song and explained why they were in a new place.
“Is this the classroom you remember?” said Brown, who has worked at the preschool for eight years.
“Yeah,” said a couple children sitting in a semicircle.
“I don’t think so,” Brown said sweetly. “There was a little bit of an accident on Tuesday.”
Brown then said she and the children would not be able to go into the classroom for about a month.
At about 5:55 p.m. Tuesday, an electrical fire sprouted under the classroom, causing about $25,000 in damage to the building and $10,000 in damage to the interior, according to an Orange County Fire Authority spokesman.
Fire officials are still looking into the cause of the incident, but OCFA Captain Marc Stone said it may have been started by a power surge that caused the wires to heat up and catch fire.
Los Alamitos City Manager Angie Avery told Patch the original classroom would probably have to be replaced because of the damage.
After talking about the fire, Brown then highlighted the most important thing, as far as the 3-year-olds were concerned.
“We’re closer to the playground,” Brown said.
Parent Imelda Morales said that she was “shocked and disappointed” when she heard about the fire because she “thought for sure there’d be no class.”
But when the Rossmoor resident found out that preschool was still on schedule, she said she was ecstatic.
“Words can’t explain,” Morales said, as her daughter Elena played with some wooden blocks in the community center room. "I was beyond happy."
As for the original classroom, caution tape wraps around the building. In the walkway, an arrow directs parents to the new classroom inside the center.
Though the fire is long gone, the smell of smoke is strong.
Yet Thursday morning seemed the typical first day of school. Kids played with markers and a playhouse kitchen and parents snapped pictures and hugged their children a lot.
“It’s still nerve-wracking,” said Heather McHenry, a Los Alamitos resident who brought her daughter Mia to school. “For three years, you have ‘em all to yourself, and then you have let them go.”
Despite the fire, Brown said that the main goal for the kids is “making them comfortable” on the first day of preschool.
“It sets the tone for their rest of their lives,” Brown said. “It’s got to be a magical experience.”