School rises from ashes

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By Carol A. Clark

Students asre preparing to enter Quemazon Montessori for the first time since an out of control minivan careened into its front wall and exploded into flames seven months ago.
No one was injured when the school, nestled among the pines at 4600 Esperanza in Quemazon, burned to its frame March 25.
“The building is finished and right now we’re moving in furniture and a lot of landscaping is going on,” owner Tammie Tucker said. “We are so excited to be back and I do want to thank the community for being so supportive.”
Classes have continued since the school went up in flames thanks to the First Baptist Church, which invited Tucker to share space at its building on Diamond Drive. Parents had a place to take their displaced 18-month-old through 5-year-old children while efforts were underway to rebuild the severely damaged building. Infants and toddlers continued attending school in the undamaged portion of the school next door.
“For the floor plan we used existing drawings to expedite the permitting process, but the interior suffered from the explosion and sustained shattered glass and bent metal doors,” Tucker said.
New walls, flooring, windows and ceiling were part of the remodeling project, the cost of which Tucker said is still being assessed. While her insurance covered much of the expenses, Tucker said enhancements have been made to the structure as well.
Parents and those who assisted with the school reparation project are invited to attend a mini grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony set for around 8:30 or
9 a.m. Monday.
Police did not charge Dorota Listwan, 42, of Los Alamos who drove the 1996 Dodge Caravan and reportedly lost control at about 3:30 p.m., left the roadway, struck a gas meter and crashed through an exterior wall of the school.
The building and a gas line caught fire as a result of the crash. Some 40 students who were at recess and 19 school staff members, including three inside the school, were successfully evacuated from the burning structure — all without injury.
Listwan and her two sons riding in the minivan also were uninjured.
“She told us her brakes failed and she was unable to avoid hitting the school,” Police Capt. Randy Foster said at the conclusion of the police investigation. “The vehicle was so heavily damaged that we can’t determine one way or the other what happened.”
The students were at recess and just three employees were inside the school when the vehicle tore through the building’s front wall.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com