A devastating fire at Hornby Island Community School just a week before classes begin has people doing all the can to help.

The fire broke out early Sunday morning and despite a quick response by volunteer firefighters, the school was still heavily damaged in the blaze. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The school, which is part of the Comox Valley School District and houses students from kindergarten to Grade 7, has been the heart of island since 1984, so Sunday’s fire has left school children, their parents and even their grandparents shaken.

“Oh it’s very sad,” Hornby School student Kaeden Armstrong said. “I’ve gone here for a long time and it just to burn down now, it’s sad.”

“It’s a very nice school,” student Imogen Ignatiuk said. “It’s a community school.”

Sunday’s fire gutted classrooms and the gymnasium and has led to the cancellation of classes, playgroups and adult sports leagues for the near future.

“It’s hard to look at it because the people now are saying it’s a total write off even though you can see that the school is still standing there’s been sprinkler damage and I think smoke damage,” Karen Ross of Hornby Island Community Economic Enhancement Corporation said.

“Things that are hard to take are the memories when you walk up the hallway of the school, you’d see all the different years of kids that have graduated through the school,” Hornby Island resident Donna Tuele.

Brian Smith was education minister of BC in the early 1980’s and gave the green light for this school to be built. Now a summer resident, he is vowing to help the community rebuild.

“If you don’t have a school on an Island, you don’t have any young people,” Smith said.

“You don’t have any young families. What do you have you have rich old people with no one to look after them it’s a bad social mix so you’ve got to have schools.”

In the meantime, the school district is considering short-term measures of using the nearby community hall as a common space to house the 45 students enrolled in the burned out school.

The community hall is just half a block away so you know there’s a big space there. I think that people will make do and that that will all evolve,” Ross said.

The school district said it has every intention of keeping the students on the island. They will finalize the plan for the students next week.