The Port Arthur News
A little help from your friends never goes amiss in a crisis.
The Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District has learned this lesson in earnest since a March 18 fire devastated the elementary school campus and left more than 100 students displaced. Thanks to the outstretched hands of their neighbors, the rebuilding process has already begun.
“We’re so excited and happy that our community has rallied around us and helped support us,” Superintendent Pamela Morris said. “It’s made the biggest difference.”
Once news of the fire broke out, the Neches Federal Credit Union set up drop boxes for donations at all nine locations and established the Hamshire-Fannett Relief Fund account. On Friday, several employees delivered two carloads and a full trailer of donations as well as a check for more than $6,000 to Hamshire-Fannett Middle School.
Neighboring school districts, Neches FCU staff and community members all pitched in to donate office and school supplies, Jason Duplant, vice president of marketing, said.
“Everybody started coming out of the woodwork,” he said.
Meanwhile, the district is adapting to a new definition of normal. Students in pre-kindergarten through second grade have returned to the elementary school. The third grade students have moved into classrooms on the middle school campus, where they will remain for the duration of the school year.
The district will examine alternative semi-permanent homes for the third grade students during the summer, Janna Carter, assistant principal at Hamshire-Fannett Middle School, said. A bond issue to rebuild the main building and attached third-grade classroom is one such option, Carter said, but nothing is certain.
“There’s a lot of ifs and buts,” she said.
For now, the district is adhering to its regular daily routine and bus schedule. A “Welcome 3rd Graders” sign above a set of lockers at the middle school is the only evidence of abnormality.
“Kids yearn for structure, so we’re trying to keep everything as normal as possible,” Carter said. “You wouldn’t know there are 130 extra people here.”
And those 130 additional students are adjusting beautifully, Morris said.
“They’re so resilient,” she said. “It’s almost like an adventure to them.”