As Sonora Elementary School students returned to class this morning, law enforcement officials continued investigating the apparent arson fire that damaged 15 classrooms on Nov. 23.
A 17-year-old former student has already been arrested on suspicion of starting the fire, and authorities have interviewed a second youth.
The name of the arrested teen is being withheld because he’s a minor. He is held in a juvenile detention center outside the county pending criminal charges being filed, according to Tuolumne County Chief Probation Officer Adele Arnold.
Probation handles all juvenile criminal matters after arrests, she said.
The 17-year-old was booked on a charge of arson, a felony that could carry six years in prison.
He could be charged differently in either juvenile or adult court, and a judge may have the option of making it an open hearing even if heard in juvenile court, according to Arnold.
A second former student was interviewed for hours at the school on Monday, but wasn’t arrested, according to Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson.
Stinson would not confirm whether he was a suspect or witness, citing the ongoing investigation.
He also declined to comment on campus rumors that the fire was related to a gang initiation.
All classes today were held on campus, a move that was important to staff to keep a sense of community, said Principal Chris Boyles.
Some classes were housed in the school library, Title 1 and art buildings. Portable-type buildings were expected to arrive next week.
Teacher Mike Miller said Monday all the teachers not displaced by the fire helped the ones who were and that “the kids will have a home.”
Community members have also shown a great deal of support.
Support Sonora School, the school’s parent organization, has received over $7,000 in donations to be used as seen fit when classes return.
This includes $1,000 from the Sonora Chamber of Commerce.
Also, volunteers assembled 200 pencil bags full of school supplies to replace many personal possessions lost by the students. Deals are in the works to potentially replace all teacher libraries by donation.
Over $400,000 in new classroom technology — $50,000 per room worth of iPads and computerized chalkboards called Smartboards — were damaged or lost in the most severely hit classrooms. That equipment should be covered by insurance.
Building F, with classes for fourth- and fifth-graders, was lost entirely, while buildings D and E will be cleaned and returned to service.