Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Suspicious Fire Closes Peralta School

By Michael Mechanic
Tue, Mar 27, 2007 at 4:53 PM

Peralta Elementary, an up-and-coming Oakland public school, was damaged last night in a fire that investigators believe may have been arson. According to coverage in the Chronicle, the blaze was set in an indoor/outdoor hallway between the main entrance and a courtyard garden, and appeared to be fueled by an accelerant. It did about $500,000 in damage, which included portions of some classrooms, and officials closed the school for the time being. The suspected arson took place less than two weeks after parents received their assignments in the school district's "Options" program. The program gives first priority to neighborhood kids, then to siblings of Peralta students from outside the neighborhood, followed by children from underperforming schools outside the neighborhood.

With its focus on music and art, well-kept gardens, rising test scores, and intense parental involvement, the small school has become increasingly sought after in recent years. Demand was rumored to be so high this year that even some Peralta siblings didn't make the cut, and outsiders vying for slots were out of luck. It hurts to consider the unthinkable, but you can bet the arson investigators will: One can only hope the timing of this fire was coincidental. (Full Disclosure: My son will attend Peralta this fall.)

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