Arts and Sciences students, teachers return to school
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Thursday, September 06, 2012
9/06/12 at 3:32 PM
Charter school students, teachers devastated by three-alarm fire
Fire destroys Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences
Restoring a sense of normalcy was the first order of business on the second first day of school at Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences.
A little more than 24 hours after their school building was destroyed in a three-alarm fire, shell-shocked teachers and emotional students trickled into the former Sequoyah Elementary School building to begin anew.
Continuing a tradition established in 2001, Cody Wagnon of the Tulsa Metro Pipe band played bagpipes to mark the occasion of the first day of school.
“We always have a piper on the first day of school. I was getting all of these calls yesterday from people wanting to help, and Cody called and said, `You need a piper for something?’ ” said Eric Doss, school director. “We thought it would be a fitting thing because we want to encourage our students -- and our teachers, as well -- to not dwell on the whys and how of what happened but to focus on moving forward and continuing to be the family we have always been.”
What students didn’t know but every Arts and Sciences teacher was keenly aware of was whom they had to thank for the state of the building they entered Thursday morning.
A small army of Tulsa Public Schools general laborers, maintenance crew members, school custodians and their managers were mobilized first thing Wednesday to ready the vacant facility at 3441 E. Archer St. that was formerly home to Sequoyah Elementary School.
The hardwood floors in the hallways were freshly polished, computers were installed in the school office, bathrooms were fully stocked with supplies, and every classroom was filled with student desks, plus a chair, desk, file cabinet and bookcase for every teacher.
Chemistry teacher Ernest Jones spotted Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard in the school’s entryway greeting students as they arrived Thursday and made a beeline to shake his hand and thank him and the other TPS employees.
Afterward, he got choked up as he recalled the moment on Wednesday morning that Arts and Sciences teachers and students learned they would be able to return to class right away.
“Dr. Ballard pulled up in front of Barnard yesterday morning and told Mr. Doss, 'Get in the car.’ Mr. Doss thought he needed to be there, but Dr. Ballard told him the fire would still be burning when they got back. He brought him here, and there was already a crew mopping and polishing the floors,” Jones said.
Wiping at his wet eyes, he continued: “We were all gathered at the Unitarian church, and we didn’t know how we would go on when we heard about this place. The kids just went crazy - and teachers love the first day of school.
"We are lucky enough to have the first day of school all over again. ”
Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences has an immediate need for supplies and materials to continue with classes since nearly every item it owned was lost in Wednesday's fire.
Monetary donations are being accepted by the school's nonprofit foundation, and teachers have begun compiling a list of supplies and books they need.
Links to the donations page and book and supply lists are now available on the school's website at tulsaworld.com/artsandsciences.
Donations can be brought to the school's new building at 3441 E. Archer St.
Students from the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences gather in the gym at the former Sequoyah Elementary School in Tulsa on Thursday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World