DICKINSON, N.D. — The principal of Trinity High School in Dickinson is accused of setting a fire at the school early Monday morning that caused so much damage classes had to be moved elsewhere for the rest of the school year.
Thomas J. Sander, 30, was charged Tuesday with arson and endangerment by fire, both Class B felonies, according to a statement from the Dickinson Police Department. The charges carry a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.
Court documents do not list an attorney for him and a home telephone listing for him could not be found. He was expected to make his initial court appearance Wednesday.
Sander, who was hired as principal in July 2013, was called in for questioning Tuesday morning. He is now in custody at South West Multi-County Correctional Facility, the statement said.
Police said the investigation is ongoing. Dickinson Catholic Schools President Steve Glasser said the schools would have no comment Tuesday night but would release a statement Wednesday.
The students have been given the week off while school officials decide how to proceed for the rest of the school year.
No damage estimate has been released.
Glasser said earlier Tuesday he has been working with Dickinson Public Schools, Dickinson State University and others to find instruction space for students.
“The outpouring of support from the community and the state has been phenomenal,” he said.
School officials hope to announce a plan for students after the Ash Wednesday service. It will likely be a combination of facilities from Dickinson public schools and DSU, Glasser said. TMI, a laminate manufacturer in Dickinson, has offered space for administration offices.
Trinity’s 253 students in grades seven through 12 will resume classes Monday.
“Our No. 1 priority right now is to teach our kids,” Glasser said.
In addition to classroom space, Trinity and public school teachers are working to provide textbooks for Trinity students. DSU will help furnish desks.
There will be an open house Sunday for students to become familiar with their new facilities, Glasser said.
The Dickinson Fire Department received the call about the fire around 1:15 a.m. Monday. Four fire trucks, three utility vehicles and 29 firefighters were at the scene and controlled the fire by about 3 a.m., fire chief Robert Sivak said.
The last fire department unit didn’t leave the scene until 6:40 a.m. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Sivak said.
The front office of the school, which opened in 1961, had the most fire damage, with structural damage in the library above the office.
The rest of the school had significant smoke damage, Sivak said.
Glasser said that officials don’t even know if they will be able to be in the building for next year. The insurance and construction processes will take quite a bit of time, he said.
“We want as best we can that in a few weeks there’s some sense of normalcy for our faculty and students,” Glasser said.