H-F Elementary to remain closed through Tuesday

Published 6:02 pm Friday, March 21, 2014

District officials are pondering their next move as they await the assessment of damage to Hamshire-Fannett Elementary School caused by Tuesday’s fire.

The elementary school will remain closed through Tuesday, when the district will hold a 6 p.m. community meeting at the Hamshire-Fannett High School competition gym, 12552 2nd Street, Hamshire, to determine its next step. Superintendent Pamela Morris said that the district will appeal to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) about making up the missed school days.

The district is currently deciding what to do about the seven sections of third-grade classrooms that were attached to the main building, where the fire initially started. The primary building — which houses students in pre-kindergarten through first grade — and the second-grade student building were not attached.

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The state fire marshal is in the process of testing the air quality of the unattached buildings, Morris said. She added that the district will utilize portable buildings only as its last short-term option.

“We have some alternative plans with several different options on the table right now,” she said. “A lot of that is going to depend on us getting the go-ahead as to what buildings we’ll be able to use.”

In the meantime, a Southeast Texas community all too familiar with disaster has made it clear that H-FISD can rely on them for anything they need.

“Everybody’s rallying around us,” Morris said. “It’s just been absolutely wonderful to see the community come together.”

Within a few hours of the fire, the Neches Federal Credit Union had set up drop boxes at all nine locations. Almost immediately, the boxes of supplies came rolling in, containing everything from hand sanitizer, to copy paper, to sticky notes and staples — all supplies that were lost in the fire.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Jason Duplant, vice president of marketing, said. “You’re used to seeing members of the community rally around these things, but it still takes you by surprise every time you see that happen.”

Neches FCU has also set up the Hamshire-Fannett Relief Fund account, with the account number 54383-1. In three days’ time, they had raised more than $2,600.

Duplant said the credit union will accept donations for the next two weeks — or as long as necessary.

“If we need to continue to do it longer than that, we’re there for them,” he said.

Neighboring districts have also risen to the occasion. Port Neches-Groves ISD has organized fundraisers at each campus, and the first thing Superintendent Rodney Cavness did Monday morning was drive to Fannett to check on Morris and her staff.

“You get hit right in the mouth sometimes,” Cavness said. “Once you go through some traumatic events, it’ll sure make you want to go help other people when they get knocked down.”

Cavness said that his district also has extra desk chairs and office supplies at the ready when H-FISD needs them.

“We’re going to help them any way we can to get those little ones back in their school,” he said.

Morris and her staff have maintained good spirits in the face of adversity. However, she said, the support of their neighbors makes all the difference.

“It’s one of those things — what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Morris said. “But even though you don’t know what you might need, knowing that all you have to do is pick up the phone is absolutely wonderful.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA