Waco school to welcome displaced West students




Posted on April 21, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 21 at 10:29 PM

WEST, Texas — Wednesday's explosion at West Fertilizer Company destroyed the town's intermediate school and left three out of four West ISD campuses unusable.

But nearly 800 students will return to the classroom on Monday for the first time since the blast, with the help of good neighbors in nine area school districts.

More than 1,000 people in the neighboring Connally ISD have been working around the clock to make the victims of the West disaster feel at home.

"People have been coming from everywhere bringing desks, food and donations," said Connally ISD employee Larry Barber.

The Connally Cadets and the West Trojans are rivals in sports. But that fierce competition is now on the sidelines.

Valerie and Mike Willis visited a school 13 miles south in Waco being set up for middle and high school students from West. Their two kids —Tyler, a senior at West High School and Rachel, an eighth-grader at the middle school — will finish their school year here.

"Oh my gosh, look!" Valerie whispered as she peeked into a classroom in disbelief.

The desks are ready with binders, paper and pencils; workers even put up a sign relabeling the building "West Middle/High School," complete with the school's logo.

Students made ribbons in West colors and added welcome signs to lockers and hallways.

The Willises were overwhelmed by the welcome their two children will be getting on Monday morning.

"It's just humbling, and I just wanted to see it with my own eyes; pictures just don't do it justice," Valerie Willis said. "It's absolutely great!"

The Texas Education Agency said STAAR testing for West students will be put on hold for the time being.

West ISD parents were getting e-mails from the district on Sunday with all the details they need about the temporary classrooms, complete with bus information and drop-off locations.

Students from Pre-K to 6th grade will continue to attend school on the West Elementary campus, which was not damaged in the fertilizer plant explosion.

The West ISD issued a statement requesting only monetary donations from now on; it has enough school supplies and materials.

Point West Bank and Trust (254-826-5333) and State National Bank (254-826-3741) are accepting cash donations on behalf of the school district.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com