Community rallies around school destroyed in fire, still collecting donations

BLOUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — It’s been an emotional week in Blountsville after a fire badly damaged and shut down J.B. Pennington High School on Tuesday morning.

On Wednesday, at a community meeting, school leaders say the building is likely closed for the rest of the year.

This is not the school’s first bout with a devastating fire. The school burned down in 1939, and again in 1990. It’s a heartbreaking turn of events for many students, including those who are getting ready to graduate.

“It’s devastating to really wake up and know that your last day at Pennington, you didn’t know was going to be your last day,” said Evan Underwood, a senior at Pennington.

The community quickly rallied around the school, gathering $5,000 in donations by Wednesday night’s community meeting. That money will be used for school supplies, says Jackie Sivley, a former teacher at Pennington and current school board member.

“I think this community is going to pull together and work to help us to overcome this, and we’ll be a better school, a better community for it,” Sivley said.

High school students will not attend classes the rest of the week, and next week is Spring Break. However, when students return on April 3rd, they will be back to class, school leaders say, just a different kind of class. High schoolers will be moved to some classrooms at Blountsville Elementary School for the remainder of the year, and the school system is also placing 16 mobile classrooms on the property.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a fire was still burning in the roof system of Pennington High School. School system officials said preparations are underway to remove the roof, so that fire can be extinguished. The cause of the fire has not been determined, and investigators cannot enter the building while the fire is still blazing.

Two different funds are now set up to help the school rebuild and restock supplies. You can find more information from the J.B. Pennington High School Alumni group at www.blountboe.net. You can also drop off your donations of school supplies, including notebooks, pencils, Kleenex, pens, and other items at Blountsville Elementary School during school hours.

School leaders say they cannot make any promises, but they are hopeful that if the community pulls together, Pennington may be back open for Fall 2017 classes.

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