Malakoff Elementary School Building Destroyed By Fire - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/9/05-Malakoff

Malakoff Elementary School Building Destroyed By Fire

A building of an East Texas elementary school, gutted by fire. It happened at Malakoff Elementary. Malakoff is a small town about 10 miles west of Athens on Highway 31.

The fire destroyed the building that houses students in Head Start through the first grade.

Fire officials are still trying to determine what caused the blaze.

"It's like a nightmare," said Malakoff Elementary Reading Coach Patsy Weems. "It's hard to believe it's really happened, and it's like what do we do now?"

The fire started just before 4:00 a.m. Wednesday. In minutes, desks, text books and computers were engulfed in flames.

"We are very thankful that no one was hurt and our kids were not here," said Ms. Dirnkard a teacher at the school. "Our kids are our life up here."

More than 250 students with no place to learn, and 21 teachers without classrooms.

"I think the biggest thing is the teacher's stuff," said Principal Kay Handlin. "They've all been here this morning, we've cried together we've hugged, we said hey it's just things we can get those replaced.

Student's immunization and cumulative records were lost to the flames. The total loss in property is estimated at $5 million.

Parents were concerned for the their student's last three months of the academic year.

"I just worry about the little ones particularly," said Mandy Burkhalter, "because all of their familiar surroundings will be no more, and no matter where we take them they're not going to know where they are at."

Malakoff ISD Superintendent Larry Hulsey said all elementary students will resume classes Monday.  The displaced students will attend classes at the alternative school campus one mile outside Malakoff.

"It's going to be a long term temporary situation because if we started to build the school today it would take a year and a half to get it built," Hulsey said.

The district had already been making plans for a new elementary school. Superintendent Hulsey said the fire just makes the need more urgent.

"We'll get by, we're not going to let the kids suffer over this fire."

The ATF, state fire marshal and an emergency team have been called in to investigate the fire. Officials said it's a standard practice anytime a school burns. They told KLTV , they could know the official cause of the Fire on Monday. Again, that's when classes resume for Malakoff Elementary students.

Maya Golden reporting, mgolden@kltv.com

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