West students head back to class in nearby school district

Posted Monday, Apr. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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LACY LAKEVIEW -- For the first day back in school after last week's catastrophic fertilizer plant explosion, about 800 high school and intermediate school students from West were welcomed into new classrooms Monday morning.

Students and faculty, most wearing West's red and black school colors, were having classes 13 miles south of West in what was a vacant Connally school district building.

Others attended classes in the current Connally High School -- rivals in District 17-3A -- across the street.

"Some of the teachers still haven't got back in their homes but they're here and ready to go," West Assistant Superintendent Jan Hungate said.

Inside the once-vacant school building, the 14 classrooms had been painted in West school colors, the cafeteria had been stocked and each desk was equipped with binders, pens and paper.

"This building was completely empty on Friday," Connally district spokesman Wesley Holt said. "We had to find everything from furniture to school supplies."

As buses dropped off students, hugs and handshakes were exchanged with faculty members.

"It feels like the first day of school," Hungate said. "The floors are shiny. We're ready to go."

West district officials plan to finish the school year at Connally's facilities. By fall, they hope to be back in West. West received a waiver from the Texas Education Agency to have abbreviated school days and teach only core classes. State-mandated STAAR testing, which is scheduled to begin today for some elementary and intermediate school students, has been postponed for the West students, Hungate said.

The classrooms were being staffed by West teachers and administrators. Hungate said 50 counselors from area school districts were available to help as well.

"I think it might hit some of them now that they're back with their friends at school," Hungate said. Area districts met on Friday to decide where to house West students after West Intermediate School and West High School were damaged in Wednesday's explosion, which killed 14 people and injured more than 200.

Other school districts pitched in with supplies and the Spring school district provided buses.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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