By Dave Garey / staff writer
It was like the first day of school, all over again. With arson shutting down their school last week, more than 500 students of Carver Middle School returned to classrooms Monday at two temporary locations.
Sixth-graders have taken up residence at the Boys and Girls Club of Lauderdale County, while seventh-graders attended classes at Kate Griffin Junior High — the school they’d normally funnel into for eighth grade.
Students and parents minced no words in expressing their frustration over Tuesday night’s arson.
“I felt hurt and very mad that someone had started that fire,” said seventh-grader Fayla McCoy, 12, as she sat in her substitute classroom at Kate Griffin. “I wondered, ‘Why would someone do that to our school?’”
Classmate Javonte Adams, 13, was also irritated.
“I was furious to find out that my school was burned, and that my learning experience was disrupted,” he said.
Waiting for her daughter, Brandi, to be dismissed from class at the Boys and Girls Club, Patricia Brown remained troubled by the Carver fire.
“I was disappointed. The kids were just getting settled in,” Brown said. “I’m just glad it didn’t happen when the children were there.”
With her two-way radio in hand, Principal Martha Walker manned a post outside the Boys and Girls Club at the end of the school day, and called for students to file out of the auditorium according to their bus routes.
Walker praised her staff for doing their best to make students feel at home under the circumstances.
“The teachers came in over the weekend and put decorations up to make the classrooms look more welcoming,” Walker said.
Because teachers have been unable to return to their classrooms at Carver, many were uncertain as to the exact inventory of damaged textbooks.
On Monday, seventh grade Carver English teacher Danielle McAlister had only her own personal edition of the usual course text, “Language Arts Today.”
“We have no books right now. We had to order all new ones,” McAlister said.
But her newfound faculty associates at Kate Griffin quickly came to the rescue, rounding up copies of an alternative text, “Basic English Composition,” for students to use in the meantime.
As her afternoon class worked on a “bio-letter” exercise, McAlister reflected on their temporary surroundings.
“Kate Griffin has been so welcoming. The students are excited about being here and just want to move forward with their learning,” she said.
At the Boys and Girls Club, meanwhile, sixth grade Carver math teacher Alecia Cockrell made do with only a white board and marker.
“We have no textbooks today. But I know where we were when we left off,” she said, smiling.
Cockrell praised the behavior and enthusiasm of her students, noting she had only one absence on Monday.
“And he actually was here, and left sick,” she said.
After hearing the news that Carver’s fire had been intentionally set, Cockrell remembered becoming concerned that the school’s own students might falsely take the rap.
“Surely it wasn’t one of our students,” she said. “Our kids are good, and too young.”
Several thousand new textbooks and other resources are expected to arrive for Carver students at the two locations later in the week, Walker said, noting that copy paper and printer cartridges were among the items in short supply Monday.
Walker extended praise to the parents of her students, pointing to one mother who had even volunteered Monday afternoon to direct traffic during dismissal at the Boys and Girls Club.
Over at Kate Griffin, Carver Assistant Principal Marty Everett summed Monday up this way: “It’s been a really good day. It’s the first day of school, all over again.”
Special evening meetings with parents of Carver students are set for this week and next week, with a meeting for parents of seventh-graders to be held at Kate Griffin on Thursday at 6 p.m., and a similar session with parents of sixth-graders at the Boys and Girls Club set for next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
Motorists driving near the Boys and Girls Club are advised to exercise caution during school hours, given that the area is now a school zone.
Meridian police and fire officials renewed their plea for any members of the public with information on the Carver fire to call CrimeStoppers, at (601) 485-1860. A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and prosecution of those responsible.
Here’s a look at meetings scheduled for Carver Middle School parents:
Parents of seventh-graders are to meet at Kate Griffin Junior High School, Thursday, Aug. 24, at 6 p.m.
Parents of sixth-graders are to meet at the Boys and Girls Club of Lauderdale County, next Tuesday, Aug. 29, at 6:30 p.m.