DICKINSON, N.D. — Seniors at Trinity High School in Dickinson returned to their fire-damaged school to graduate — something many didn’t think would be possible.
The school was heavily damaged in a March 3 fire that authorities believe was intentionally set by the school’s principal. Students finished out the school year in classes at temporary locations across the city but returned to the school’s auditorium for commencement ceremonies on Sunday.
“It’s really comforting to know that we can come back into our building for one last time,” senior Allison Steffan said.
Senior Class President Austin Deichert said the fire left “a bad taste in our mouth.”
“It’s just great to see everybody back here and smiling,” he said.
Thirty-nine seniors crossed the stage to get a diploma.
“It’s emotional. A very difficult three months, but boy, what a celebration today,” Dickinson Catholic Schools President Steve Glasser said. “This is monumental for any school to go through what we’ve gone through and to culminate it with commencement — which means a new beginning, and this definitely is a new beginning for all of us after today.”
Senior Allison Meyer said the fire has been a lesson in overcoming challenges.
“This has taught me that no matter what happens in my life I can fight through it,” she said.
Authorities say the fire was set in a file cabinet and caused extensive damage in the school’s office area and heavy smoke damage throughout the building.
Former principal Thomas Sander has pleaded not guilty to charges of arson and endangerment by fire. His trial is scheduled to begin July 23.
He is free on $50,000 bond but is under the custody of his father and his travel is restricted.
Classes at the school are expected to resume in the fall.