Students are the suspects in a deliberate fire that has shut down a Dartmouth elementary school this week.

During the lunch hour Tuesday, someone at Portland Estates Elementary set fire to a book bag that was hanging on a second-floor coat rack in the hallway.

“The investigator found matches in the bag and other matches in the (boys’) washroom,” Halifax regional fire spokesman Dave Meldrum said. “So we believe it was a deliberate act.”


Classes have been cancelled for the rest of the week while a clean up crew is on site, says a school board spokesman.

“There’s a considerable amount of work that needs to be done and it’s work that can be done more efficiently, quickly and thoroughly if there’s no one in the building,” Doug Hadley said.

Damage from the fire was minimal, but there was smoke to clear and water damage from the sprinkler system. At least one wall needs to be repainted, Hadley said.

Because fire investigators have deemed the incident suspicious, it’s now in the hands of police, and spokesman Const. Jeff Carr said police are working with the principal to determine who’s responsible.

“We don’t know who did it,” Carr said. “We believe it was likely kids or a kid playing with matches.”

Hadley wasn’t sure how much the damages cost or who is on the hook for them, but said it will either be the school board’s insurer or Scotia Learning Centres, which owns and operates the province’s P3 schools.

Hadley said the school will likely reopen next Tuesday after the long weekend.

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