Middle school gym to open year after fire

FAYETTEVILLE Last summer, the school's gym and band room went up in smoke when kids were playing with fireworks on campus.

The adjoining cafeteria and other rooms suffered smoke and water damage, causing students this past year to have to eat in other nearby school cafeterias and practice in other gyms.

William Thomas Ellis, 16, and two juvenile friends have been charged with causing the fire at the middle school.

Assistant Superintendent Tim Kinlaw says it cost $3.2 million dollars to repair the school, but along the way they have been making it better than before.

"You take lemon and you make lemonade out of it," Kinlaw said. "We've got a great facility with great improvements for the students and staff."

The school was built in the mid 1970s. Now the gym is not only new, but its high tech --from its electrically operated basketball backboards to new lightweight bleachers and special vinyl cushioned flooring.

And band students will rehearse in a new band room with all brand new instruments. The cafeteria also got a new makeover.

As crews put the final touches on their work, Douglas Byrd Middle School Principal David Edwards says the challenge is going to be trying to contain the students' and teachers' excitement.

"They are very excited about the new building excited about the cafeteria, so the biggest challenge will be enjoying it," Edwards said.

Kinlaw says he is confident everything will be ready to go when students return on August 25.

In the meantime, Ellis has a court hearing next week according to court records.

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