Woodrow Wilson High School re-opened in August after a $100 million-plus renovation, and celebrated its 75th anniversary with a gala this past weekend in its handsome, four-story, glass-enclosed atrium. But it’s also been a bumpy first few weeks for the Northwest D.C. school, with students getting multiple opportunities to brush up on their evacuation skills. Two bathroom fires, the most recent on Oct. 11, forced emergency evacuations and left more than $150,000 in damage, according to Principal Pete Cahall.
“In some way, I do not want to think or talk about the two incidents that we had in the last two weeks with fires being set in the bathrooms, but I am confident that we have turned the page on this type of destructive and senseless behavior,” he wrote in his weekly newsletter. “We have completed an intensive investigation and have been able to clearly identify four individuals who were directly responsible, involved, or present and did not do anything to stop the incident from occurring.”
Cahall said he is recommending expulsion for the four students as well as “pressing for the most severe criminal charges.” He also said he will make every effort to recover clean-up and repair costs from those responsible.
He added that security cameras have been “repositioned” for clear views of the entrances to all restrooms, and that security has been ordered to monitor the cameras at all times.
Cahall warned students: “Even if you are not directly involved in a situation and can be put at the place and time of an incident and you do nothing to be a part of the solution, you will be held accountable for whatever occurred. In other words, you are either part of the problem or solution.”
DCPS spokesman Fred Lewis said his office was aware of only one bathroom fire — the one last week. The other evacuation was reported as a pipe leak in the basement level of the building that triggered the sprinkler system when the water was shut off to make repairs, he said.
The school was also forced to evacuate to Deal Middle School on Sept. 23 after a suspicious package was found outside the school. There were no injuries, and students returned for dismissal after police swept the building. There were no injuries reported from any of the episodes, Lewis said.