A SOUTHAMPTON pre-school has been forced to close after a second attack by arsonists.
Days after reopening following the initial fire, staff at the Squirrels Corner pre-school have been left devastated by another blaze.
In a copycat attack, a vent was set alight leading to a store room in which was kept all the equipment, toys and furniture used by the pre-school.
It had only recently been replaced after the previous incident, in which all its stock was destroyed – leading to a £30,000 clear-up bill.
The pre-school, based at Moorlands Community Centre in Townhill Way, reopened on June 2 after the community rallied round with donations and support.
Staff and children were temporarily relocated to a nearby children’s centre while the preschool staff worked to replace equipment, children’s paperwork and deal with insurance claims.
But now the pre-school is once again facing an uphill battle to reopen following the latest incident, which was discovered yesterday morning.
Pre-school leader Genette Spooner said they were determined to reopen for the sake of the children and the eight staff who are employed there.
Administration manager Emma Glyde said: “We had this absolutely fantastic feeling when we reopened. We were so happy and grateful for all the support and looking forward to our new beginning.
“Now we are just gutted, completely devastated.
“It is hard to know how we are going to replace everything again.”
Many of the 42 children on roll were preparing to make the transition to school next September and now face having no pre-school to attend in the final weeks of term.
Parent Lorraine Bailey-Dean, 36, said that her four-year-old twins Jack and Caitlin would be affected by the disruption.
“It is just heartbreaking really. The last time it happened everyone worked so hard to get it back open again. It is soul-destroying really,” she said.
“The kids were just gearing up for school and now the pre-school isn’t open for such a mindless act of vandalism.”
Hampshire police said they had investigated the first attack which happened in April but that no arrests had been made.
A spokesman said: “The people who did this need to think about the consequences of what they have done and the effect it has had on many local families.
“We will be looking if this latest incident is linked to the previous arson.
“One of our officers has been assigned to liaise with the community centre about the crime and talk about security advice.
“We carry out regular patrols in the area and will keep a watchful eye on the centre.”
Anyone who may have witnessed the fire starting, or who has any information that could help, is urged to contact Hampshire police on 101.