Management at the Mercy Convent secondary school for girls was left with no alternative but to close the school to carry out remedial works, leaving 700 students without tuition.
Three units of the fire service arrived at the school in Ozanam Street at about 3am yesterday and spent two hours bringing the fire under control.
“We have reason to think the car was set alight and pushed down steps into the door,” said chief fire officer Tony Gleeson. “The smoke damage was quite extensive - the car was essentially set alight at the rear entrance door and the fire went into the hallway and corridors.”
Gardaí have carried out a technical examination of the scene and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward. “The car was totally gutted so we are not able to say yet if it was stolen, but it was driven around the grounds before it was embedded into the side of the door,” said Sergeant John McDonald of Waterford Garda Station.
While the damage was confined to one section of the building, the fire and smoke left 18 rooms, including computer rooms, classrooms and toilets, charred and blackened.
“Painting contractors had just finished painting in the school at the weekend so there was fresh paint on the walls which is now completely blackened,” said principal Michael Lane.
Masked cleaners worked throughout the day yesterday, while insurers assessed damage to the carpets, walls, ceilings and electrical systems.
“I couldn’t really begin to imagine why someone would do something like this. We hope to reopen on Thursday, at least for exam classes,” said Mr Lane.
Anyone with information about the incident can contact Waterford gardaí at 051 305300.