Plans underway to rebuild PMJH after Wednesday fire

Published 4:01 pm Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recreational reading on the campus of Pollard-McCall Junior High School may be a long time in returning to campus after a fire Wednesday destroyed the school’s library.
But Billy Hines, Escambia County Schools superintendent, said plans to rebuild the facility are quickly being put into place.
“As soon as we get the OK from the insurance adjusters we’re going,” Hines said. “We have already met with the state architect to look at the plans for the building and bring anything up to code so the building can be reconstructed as soon as possible.”
The call reporting the fire in the 13-year-old construction came just after 8 a.m. Wednesday with fire personnel from three departments responding to the blaze.
Principal Hugh White said personnel and members of the community were quick to come to the aid of the school.
“We had eight or 10 departments come to help put out the fire,” White said. “We had members of our community stopping to help, too. People came to make sure the students were safe and even helped firefighters pull hoses or just whatever they could do to help.”
White said the support of the community makes him optimistic about rebuilding at the school.
“We have the strong support of the people in our community,” White said. “That’s why I’m optimistic about rebuilding and come back even stronger and better than before”
A summer program was in session at the school when the fire occurred, however all of the students were moved to safety at the front of the campus, Hines said.
The summer program was suspended briefly, according to Sarah Anne Fountain, director of the program.
“We will start the summer program back on Tuesday, June 21,” Fountain said. “The only change will be the location. We will be meeting at Catawba Springs Baptist Church.”
Times and session content for the summer program will not change, Fountain said.
Hines said the work of firefighters and volunteers at the scene of the blaze was more than adequate.
“I just can’t say enough about the firefighters and all of the other people who came to help,” Hines said. “The main building of the school, which is built of wood, was less than 10 feet away from the blaze. To keep that building safe and the fire contained to that one place was nothing less than amazing.”
The library building, which was constructed in 1999, also housed two classrooms and restrooms, Hines said.
“We will be meeting early next week to talk about rearranging things for those classrooms,” Hines said. “The building was totally destroyed but we were able to save some desks and chairs from the classrooms. All of that has been moved to the gym.”
Hines said the main goal, once the approval by fire officials is given, is to have the destroyed building dismantled and taken away from the campus before the new school year begins.
“When you have as much debris to remove as is being left by this building there are some safety concerns at the campus,” Hines said. “It’s our plan to get moving on that as quickly as possible and have it completely removed before Aug. 15 when school starts back. You can build while school is in session, but with demolition there are so many safety issues that we want that done before students come to the campus this fall.”
Responding to the fire were firefighters with McCall Volunteer Fire Department, Brewton and Flomaton Fire Departments, Friendship Volunteer Fire Department, Lambeth Volunteer Fire Department, as well as Jay, Century, McDavid and Pineview Fire Departments.
“The people from Southern Pine were thoughtful enough to bring water and Gatorade to the people fighting the fire,” White said. “We had the Red Cross there and so many people who stopped to offer assistance.”
White, who has been principal at the school for the last eight years, said the school is grateful for the work done to save other buildings at the school.
“Things could have been worse,” White said. “If it had not been for them (firefighters), this would have been a disaster.”