Crime - Sacto 911

Antelope school fire ruled arson

A fire in a classroom at an Antelope school Sunday night has been determined to be arson, according to Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District investigators.

Assistant Chief Eric Bridge declined to discuss details of the fire that broke out at about 10 p.m. at Global Youth Charter, 3243 Center Court Lane, because of the ongoing investigation, but he said it caused an estimated $50,000 worth of damage to the classroom. As of late Monday afternoon, Bridge said, there were no suspects.

Although the fire occurred during the winter break, when students and staff were away from campus, Scott Loehr, Center Joint Unified School District superintendent, said such incidents during extended breaks are less common than they once were. His comments were echoed by other school district and law enforcement representatives in the Sacramento area.

“Hopefully, this doesn’t point to a new trend,” Loehr said.

Global Youth Charter is one of two charter schools at the Center Court Lane site. It serves about 100 to 110 students in seventh through 12th grades, Loehr said.

The fire was set in a portable classroom that housed English classes and was contained to that classroom. Loehr said it appeared to be an act of vandalism, rather than theft, noting that nothing appeared to be missing from the room.

“It was totaled, as far as fire and smoke damage,” Loehr said.

He said the teacher was able to salvage some materials from the classroom Monday. Insurance representatives had been at the site to assess the damage. Loehr said the classroom would be repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

Other rooms are available to house the displaced classes when students return Monday.

Loehr said Center Joint Unified contracts for security with the Twin Rivers Police Department, which, along with the fire department, notified school district officials of the fire Sunday night following an alarm. Loehr credited the quick response of security and fire personnel with preventing the fire from spreading to other buildings.

Gabe Ross, a spokesman for the Sacramento City Unified School District, said the city district, like Center, has seen a decline in vandalism during extended school breaks in recent years. He credited neighborhood residents and police patrols with the decrease. Although experiences vary from school to school, he said, school personnel make an effort to talk with neighbors about the importance of promptly reporting any suspicious activity to police.

Ross said the district has a small security force, but it can’t cover all of the district’s schools. Schools are equipped with security cameras, which can help identify people involved in campus break-ins or vandalism, he said.

Officer Justin Brown, a spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department, said there was no indication of an increase in school vandalism over the winter break. Officers do periodic checks of school campuses when they are patrolling neighborhoods, he said.

Sgt. Lisa Bowman, spokeswoman for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, said the department doesn’t provide extra patrols during school breaks and hasn’t seen any increase in campus crimes.

“We still get our share of burglary alarms that are false and general calls regarding people ‘hanging out’ on campus,” she said in an email. Deputies check out the reports, contact people they find on campus and release them if it is determined no crime has been committed, she said.

Anyone with information about the Global Youth Charter fire is asked to call the Sac Metro arson tip line at (916) 859-3775.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.