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Displaced James Monroe Elementary Students Get Lesson In Giving Back

Authorities are investigating a fire at James Monroe Elementary School in Edison, NJ on March 24, 2014. (credit: CBS 2)

Authorities are investigating a fire at James Monroe Elementary School in Edison, NJ on March 24, 2014. (credit: CBS 2)

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EDISON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – School life is mostly back to normal for students of Edison’s James Monroe Elementary School a month after a fire destroyed the school.

As WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported, the 500 students displaced by the 6-alarm fire have been back learning in makeshift classrooms on the campus of Middlesex County College.

“I think the kids really do like it here,” principal Lynda Zapoticzny told Putney.

She said besides the college, several organizations and businesses pitched in and donated items and supplies.

“We’re really understanding what giving to others means, as they’re now on the receiving end of that,” Zapoticzny said.

“So they turned a negative into a positive and it’s great to see,” New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney said.

Sweeney was invited to visit James Monroe’s temporary setup and said the state will help any way possible.

“Because there’s going to be issues with the Department of Education when their educational year’s disrupted. There’s standards that have to be met,” he told Putney.

Demolition of the 50-year-old James Monroe Elementary began earlier this month.

Head custodian Jerome C. Higgins, 48, of East Brunswick, is accused of tossing an unfinished cigarette into a trash can in the janitor’s office, sparking the blaze that gutted the school on March 22.

The school had smoke and fire alarms, but no sprinklers. It is against state law to smoke inside a school building.

Higgins was issued a summons accusing him of smoking in a public building, which is a disorderly persons offense.

Officials have requested proposals for building a replacement school building. It could take at least two years to rebuild.

Last week, students from the school were surprised with a trip to MetLife Stadium for a super field day.

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