- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

ALBANY, Ore. (AP) - Five days after an arson fire burned down the cafeteria, students at South Albany High School were back in class Monday, with a makeshift lunchroom in the gym and what the principal called a “very aggressive schedule” for rebuilding.

Students at the 1,300-enrollment campus filled the gym for an all-school assembly before classes, KOIN-TV (https://bit.ly/1GDF8nH ) reported.

“Today is a little bit different,” Principal Brent Belveal said. “We want to get everybody off to the right start today.”

He said hundreds of people and businesses, churches and groups have offered to help since the April 1 fire.

On Friday, he said, “two big trucks” were unloaded with band instruments that have been borrowed or donated to replace those in the music rooms also destroyed in the fire.

He said he was thankful for the support and said it should give students reason to think twice about their 51,000-population hometown.

“That doesn’t happen in every community,” Belveal said. “For some of you, you can’t wait to get out of here, but there are some really good things about living in a small town, too.”

A 28-year-old Albany man, Zachary Burghart, has been jailed on an arson charge, and court records show he confessed to starting the fire.

He was on probation after a series of fires in the nearby community Scio last year. He’s been described as a Navy veteran having mental problems.

Belveal called it a “crime of opportunity,” not the result of a vendetta against the school.

The cafeteria was one of 11 separate buildings on the campus. Insurance is expected to cover much of the reconstruction cost, and plans are to have a new cafeteria in operation next fall, the principal said.

“That’s a pretty big undertaking,” he said, “a very aggressive schedule.”

By next week, Belveal said, a temporary cafeteria will be set up, and by April 20, three portable classrooms will be ready for band, choir and food classes.

On Monday, meals were prepared at the county fairgrounds and brought in, with serving lines in the gym.

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Information from: KOIN-TV, https://www.koin.com/

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