Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

TOP STORY >>Displaced Students Return Monday

Leader staff writers

Less than two weeks after a faulty light fixture caused the fire that destroyed the $9 million Cabot Junior High North building on Aug. 10, administrators from the district laid out plans to get the 1,250 students back into the classrooms by Monday. The rest of the district went back to school this week. “This was good. I was curious about the scheduling and buildings,” said Stephanie Osborne, who attended the ninth-grade informational meeting on Sunday with her ninth- grader Stephen.

Since the fire, all class schedules are void so students will need to pick up a new class schedule this week at the principals’ building. Ninth graders can pick up their schedules on Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Seventh and eighth graders can pick up their class schedules on Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Ninth-grade students will be attending classes in four portable buildings on the Cabot High School campus and will be having lunch in the high school cafeteria, after high schoolers finish, from 12:39 to 1:19 p.m.

“It’s nothing against the high schoolers, but they are a little bit older and we want our ninth graders to feel safe,” said Georgia Chastain, Cabot Junior High North principal. Ninth graders will be taking computer-lab courses in the business building or K building on the high school campus as well as using the high school library. “We can’t let our ninth graders’ momentum down because they’re not just earning grades, they’re earning credit towards graduation,” Chastain said.
Seventh and eighth graders will be attending classes in 20 portable classrooms set up on the Cabot Junior High North campus, between the tennis courts and the gym.

Parents will be notified by September if the Arkansas Department of Education will waive the week of missed classes for Cabot Junior High North students or if there will be a week of make-up classes required at the end of the school year. Meals cooked at Cabot Middle School North will be brought over and students will eat either in the gym or in the classrooms. Parents were encouraged to make their students ride the buses as much as possible instead of driving their children to school as a way to alleviate traffic congestion. The district will have crossing guards and administrators helping direct traffic at the high school and parents to guide other parents dropping off their ninth graders.

Bus routes will likely be running a little earlier this week since Cabot Junior High North students won’t be going to classes and may run a little late next week when those students will be picked up. Assistant Superintendent Jim Dalton urged parents and students to be patient as the logistical problems are worked out.

For parents who need to drop off seventh and eighth graders, drivers will turn off Hwy. 89 as if they were traveling to Cabot Junior High North and follow the new road. This new road goes in front of the portables, stretches around the softball fields and puts drivers on Polk Street. The principals for Cabot Junior High North have moved into the principals’ building on the Cabot High School campus. All students will be checked in and out of school through the principals’ building.

All Cabot Junior High North telephone numbers have been transferred to the principals’ building as well. There are still some loose ends to tie up for parents. Immunization records and medical plans for all seventh graders at Cabot Junior High North were lost in the fire. Parents are being asked to provide copies of those records for student’s files.

Following the fire, several schools from around the state have stepped forward with donations. The Fort Smith School District donated 500 desks, Arkansas Technical University gave 250 and Searcy School District stepped up with 100. Approximately $8,000 worth of replacement textbooks have been shipped to the school. A chainlink fence is being erected around the remains of the Cabot Junior High North building for students’ safety.

Insurance investigators have finished their examination of the building and should be presenting a report to the school soon. District employees are slowly going through the remains of the building this week for anything salvageable. “We’ve been going through a pretty hard last week. We met with the Cabot Junior High North teachers the day after the fire and it’s like any other grieving process. You grieve and move on,” said Frank Holman, Superintendent of the Cabot School District.
Holman says it should take $15 million and about two years to replace the Cabot Junior High North building.