Church, community lend school a helping hand
How to help: Here’s how you can chip in and help
Nearly every person who came through the doors of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Westmoreland County on Tuesday had an attitude of gratitude.
They were the students, parents and teachers of Colonial Beach Elementary School. The church will serve as a temporary school after a Jan. 5 fire damaged the former Colonial Beach High School, located adjacent to the elementary school.
And though rain came down steadily Tuesday afternoon, it didn’t dampen the mood as they got ready for classes.
Teachers stood outside their classroom doors, ready to welcome students and their parents.
Outside, students painted their hands with colorful acrylic paint and put their handprints on a school bus, which will be at the Walmart in Dahlgren to be filled with school supplies.
The building that burned held much of the school’s supplies and equipment, which now needs to be replaced.
“We thought it would be good for them to see the hands they are helping,” said School Board member Michelle Payne.
Art teacher Kimberly Fischer helped students apply paint to their little hands and stick them on the school bus.
She painted “Thank you for lending a helping hand” on the front of the bus and handprints covered the rest of it.
After the fire, the church volunteered its facility and last week, the Colonial Beach School Board selected it as the site where students will resume school temporarily.
The church has classrooms, a cafeteria, a commercial kitchen and other space the school can use.
Pastor Randall Snipes showed how the school is using every available space.
Classrooms are decorated colorfully, and students will use folding chairs and tables.
Hallways are full of bright and cheery bulletin boards welcoming the children back.
After the fire, the elementary school closed for a week while officials made arrangements.
As Snipes walked down the halls, he was stopped several times by people who thanked him and the church for their help.
The teachers said they were happy that the whole school was able to stay together.
“We are so excited. Everyone has been generous and kind,” said Kathy Greenlaw, who assists with kindergarten, first- and second-grade classes.
She said they are trying to keep things as normal as possible for the students.
Samantha Steffey, a second-grade social studies teacher, said they are grateful for the community’s help.
LaTrish Lucas–Peyton, who has an 8-year-old niece in the school, was at the open house Tuesday.
“I’m glad they got somewhere for them to go,” she said.
She commended the community for stepping up.
“I’m glad they were able to come together to work as a community to get the kids back to school,” she said.
Robyn Sidersky: 540/374-5413