Fire erupted in a storage room at Navajo Elementary School on 4525 N. Granite Reef Road, during the early morning hours of Wednesday, August 22, on what should have been the 12th day of school.
While no one was hurt, smoke and water damage rendered areas uninhabitable that the blaze didn’t destroy. Complicating matters further, the combination of fire, smoke and water caused the release of asbestos into the school.
Having learned about the fire while watching the morning news, Principal Matt Patzlaff reported being in “utter and complete shock.”
“We lost possessions, but possessions can be replaced. A child’s life, a staff member’s life — they cannot be replaced,” Patzlaff said. “Thankfully no one was injured or killed in the fire.”
While the cause of the fire is still unknown, many big problems resulting from the fire were also solved that day. School was closed, and a text alert went out notifying the families. Realizing that the building was off limits, and would be for some time, the decision was made to annex the vacant Oak Learning Academy about three miles south of Navajo. This campus now serves as Navajo’s new home, at 7501 E. Oak St.
With efforts from Patzlaff and his team at Scottsdale Unified School District, the new facility was cleaned and ready in time to open school the very next day.
“I got a map of the campus to see what rooms would fit what,” Patzlaff said. “IT was there around the clock helping to set up technology and Building Services brought in desks, chairs and tables for the kids.”
Now the school, which opened in 1960, just needed to replace all those tangible items that make a school a school. Except for whatever the teachers and students had with them, everything else such as pencils, paper and books were destroyed or ruined beyond repair.
In the hours and days following the fire, local schools and organizations donated supplies and even brought in food.
“Our teachers were here around the clock getting ready for the kids,” Patzlaff said. “Parents, students and the PTO — the entire community — were working hard and going a mile a minute to make this work.”
Like many other schools, Navajo provided laptops for its students. And while students are using loaner ones from Scottsdale Unified, school officials are hoping that the laptops stored in Navajo’s library, which wasn’t as badly damaged, can be cleaned and made operational once again.
“Three weeks later and we’re getting into the groove,” Patzlaff said. “We’re getting back to as much teaching and learning as we can. Being able to be here to educate kids is our primary goal.”
While Patzlaff reports that classrooms are looking more like regular classrooms, many more supplies are needed. Several options exist to donate to Navajo’s students and teachers.
Any amount is needed and appreciated.
HOW YOU CAN HELP.
Follow this link (http://a.co/3Of7zoW) to the Amazon Wish List, which was designed by the teachers.
One of the fathers who serves on the PTO did some online detective work and discovered Chuffed, which now contains the school’s official donation site. Click (https://chuffed.org/project/wearenavajo) to help Navajo.
To make a tax credit contribution, check out (https://donate.susd.org/). These funds go to support field trips and extracurricular activities.
Finally, nothing beats an old-fashioned check, which can be made out to Navajo Elementary School and mailed to 7501 E. Oak St., Scottsdale, AZ 85257.