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WES students return after fire cleanup

After an early morning fire last week temporarily closed West Elementary School, students are now back in a normal routine – with a few changes, as to be expected.

The school opened its doors for the second grade Thursday, first grade Friday, kindergarten Monday and Pre-K Tuesday.

“It is so nice to have all of my teachers and students back,” said West Elementary School Principal Deanna Hollimon.

Hollimon said she has been impressed by how well the students have adapted to things.

“At first I thought we might have a few students who might be scared coming back to school if they didn’t understand what all had happened or what all was going on, but we have not seen any children acting like they are afraid,” Hollimon said. “All of the students just seem like they are so happy to be back here, and we are so happy to have them back.”

Hollimon said she is also impressed with how the Russellville community has come together to support the school.

“It has shown me just what we are capable of doing when something like this happens, and everyone is resilient and does what they need to do,” Hollimon said.

The main changes for students have involved the cafeteria, which is a central location in the school and has been off limits while cleanup is underway. Hollimon said she and the teachers have had to be creative when thinking of new routes to avoid the cafeteria area.

For the first few days students were back at school, cafeteria workers used other schools to prepare meals before bringing the meals to student classrooms.

Hollimon said now the kitchen in the cafeteria is in use, after the health department approved it Friday afternoon. Students will continue to eat lunch in their classrooms while the cafeteria is being cleaned and areas are being renovated.

The after-school program also resumed Monday, but it is being held in the gym instead of the cafeteria.

“Everyone has just done a great job adjusting to the changes,” Hollimon said. “We are saying this is like a new normal for us.”