HAMSHIRE, Texas — After 12 days away from the classroom, students at Hamshire-Fannett were able to return to school for the first time since Imelda. The storm caused the district $9 million in damages.
The district was forced to get creative with the limited amount of instructional space remaining. Students are split between the high school and elementary school. They spend half a day at school, and the other half at one of three churches that have stepped in to help. Monday was the first day trying things out.
"I made visits around the campuses, the church, First Baptist Fannett did the first hosting of our students this morning and that's going extremely well," Hamshire-Fannett Superintendent Dr. Dwaine Augustine said.
First Baptist Church of Fannett, First Baptist Hamshire and Grace Community Church have all opened their doors to the students. Augustine said they've been very accommodating, making space for the children to do small group instructions, P.E, and a variety of other things to keep the learning going.
Making sure students get a quality education despite the circumstances is a concern for Augustine. Although the students aren't in their normal buildings from start to end, he said they're creating learning opportunities for the kids throughout the entire day.
The kids will likely be split up for 6-8 weeks. The district is making arrangements for portable buildings to be installed, and should have a plan sometime next week.
In the meantime, Augustine praised the community's cooperation and assistance in getting the students back to school. From the church groups, to community members picking up supplies, it's been a group effort. Based off the first day, Augustine said both students and parents seem to be excited to be getting back to a routine.
"Our staff has spent a lot of time preparing and it showed today, when our kids came back that preparation really showed, and our parents and our community have all come together and I think it's just been a great start," Augustine said.
Hamshire-Fannett Elementary Principal Byron Miller said it's been amazing to see how the community has come together. They'll have anywhere from 370-400 kids spending half of their day at Grace Community Church. The students are adapting well, according to Miller.
"Many of these students faced the Harvey situation two years ago, they overcame that, they're going to overcome this, they're resilient," Miller said, "You can't beat our kids, they're the best in the world."
The staff has a lot of hands-on activities, STEM, music, and interactive games planned for the time spent at the church. Miller said they'll also have a homework section available to help those who need a little extra time to work on assignments.
"There are so many different amazing things that they're going to be able to do," Miller said.
Stephen Gregory is the community group and worship Pastor for Grace Community. He said they're thankful to be able to open up their church to house the kids during the day.
"it's about seeing God's hands and feet at work, and we're just here to do what we can to seize opportunities that come our way, to really serve and love our community," Gregory said.
Helping out the community is exactly what the church is supposed to be doing, Gregory explained. He said when disasters hit, they're already here when it's happening, and they're going to be here once its gone.
"We want to be on the forefront, right here, right now, to help out anyway we can," Gregory said.
Their goal is to not only make things easier on the students, but also for the staff. Gregory said they realize they can only imagine how stressful this must be on teachers. Their offering snacks, coffee, sodas, anything to help. Several parents have also sent things through amazon, or dropped by with donations to help smooth things along.
"The community stepped up in that way, Hamshire-Fannett always does, it really does," Gregory said.