Relocating of students from Sparks under way

January 11, 1995|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

It was back-to-school night for Sparks Elementary.

Burned out of the 85-year-old building on Sunday, the Sparks school started to come back together last night at a jammed meeting of parents, teachers, students and other community residents at Cockeysville Middle School, where they will be located for the rest of this year.

Planned even before the move to Cockeysville was announced, the meeting was both informational and inspirational. "There were some real needs . . . to be back together with the Sparks family," said the elementary school's principal, Thomas Ellis.

"We were a family, we still are a family and we'll continue to be a family," he said before taking up the nuts-and-bolts details of relocating a 300-student school in four days.

Sparks' classes will begin at 9 a.m. Friday. Buses will pick children up at their regular stops at the usual time, he said.

The school's staff, including administrators, custodians and cafeteria workers, will relocate to underused Cockeysville Middle, which has an enrollment of 815 students and space for 1,155. The elementary youngsters will occupy about 10 classrooms and have their own art and music rooms.

They will have their own lunch period, separate from the middle school youngsters, and "yes, there will be recess," Mr. Ellis said in answer to one student's question.

School system employees began salvaging furniture and materials from the first floor of the burned-out school on Sparks Road yesterday. Meanwhile, other school employees moved furniture and supplies into Cockeysville.

The middle school needs very little work to accommodate the elementary school youngsters, said Faith Hermann, executive director of facilities for the county schools.

"We'll have the same phone number," Mr. Ellis told the parents. "And we'll be ready for Sparks Elementary to be back in business.

"In the past 50 1/2 hours since I got the phone call at home Sunday morning . . . I have seen people move mountains. There is no such thing as red tape," he added.

Fire officials have not determined the cause of the fire, but "we have ruled out arson," Battalion Chief James Devers told the crowd last night. "It was an accidental fire," that was probably burning in the ceiling for as long as an hour before it was discovered by a custodian, he said.

Built in 1909, the school was not equipped with smoke detectors, a sprinkler system or an automatic fire alarm.

After the general session, teachers showed students and their families to their new classrooms. Some already had bulletin board displays and notes on the chalk board. In Gloria Matthews' new second-grade quarters, there were instructions for what the children were to bring with them Friday -- a photo, markers, books on certain subjects.

"We have a fantastic staff of teachers. They have been troupers. They have been working around the clock," said Sparks' assistant principal, Marcel Hall.

Most of the school's books and teaching materials were destroyed and the teachers lost many personal belongings, accumulated over their careers. But teachers from other county schools and from schools outside the county are collecting materials for them. In addition, businesses and community organizations are helping to equip the school.

"It's important to recognize the good will that has come our way," said Barbara Kelly, area superintendent for the central area, in which Sparks and Cockeysville are located.

The Greater Sparks-Glencoe Community Council started a Sparks Elementary School Disaster Recovery Fund Monday with a donation of $2,500. Anyone wishing to contribute should send donations to Sparks State Bank, 14804 York Road, Sparks 21152.

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