- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) - A judge set a $500,000 cash bond on Wednesday for a man who has been charged with setting fire to the western North Dakota high school where he is the principal.

Thomas Sander, principal at Trinity High School in Dickinson, faces charges of arson and endangerment by fire or explosion, both felonies that carry a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

The early Monday fire forced school officials to cancel classes this week and relocate students to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The Catholic high school has grades 7-12 and is part of the Dickinson Catholic School system, according to the school website.

Firefighters responded to the school just after 1 a.m. after receiving a call about the fire alarms going off. The fire department has said the building suffered heavy smoke damage throughout the school, extensive fire damage in the office area and structural damage to the ceiling above the office area.

The criminal complaint against the 30-year-old Dickinson man alleges that he set the contents of a file cabinet in the vault portion of the school’s administrative office on fire. No motive is mentioned in the complaint.



No injuries were reported at the school, and a resident at an apartment on the second floor of the school building was not hurt. According to the complaint, Sander knew the resident, who has been identified as a religion teacher, was at the apartment when he allegedly started the fire.

Court documents don’t list an attorney for Sander and a home telephone listing for Sander couldn’t be found.

It took 29 firefighters and four trucks about two hours to put out the blaze. Police and fire officials are still investigating.

Bishop David Kagan plans to meet with the board of directors of the Dickinson Catholic Schools on Friday to discuss a full assessment of the property.

The Bismarck Tribune reported that seventh- and eighth-graders will take classes at Prairie Rose Elementary with desks on loan from Dickinson State University. Ninth-graders will be hosted by Berg Elementary School, while 10th-graders will be at Hagen Junior High School.

Eleventh- and 12th-grade students will take classes in the basement of Dickinson’s St. Joseph Church.

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