Hays County elementary students, teachers lose their classrooms in portable fire

Hays

KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — Elementary school students in Hays CISD are starting their first full week of school without a classroom after a portable building caught on fire Monday night.

A district spokesperson says the fire started at Camino Real Elementary School around 11 p.m. Monday.

The portable building that burned housed two second grade classrooms. Everything inside the building was destroyed, including the kids’ school supplies.

Two teachers, Melissa Rivera Brown and Victoria Burgess, have relocated their 44 students into the main building’s library and computer lab for the time being, as the district works to replace the portable.

“This is my 16th year, and I’ve had a lot of worksheets, stuff that I’ve created on flashdrives, and, you know, computers. We had just gotten brand new computers, and so I had started saving stuff there, and all my flash drives were in my desk, and they’re gone,” Rivera-Brown said, explaining that she lost 15 years worth of lesson plans overnight.

Burgess is a first-year teacher at the school whose classroom shared the portable spaces with Rivera-Brown’s. Both women said they’ve been working on nights and weekends for weeks to get their portable classrooms ready in time for the start of the school year.

“It’s definitely a lot of our own money and time,” Burgess said. “We put our hearts into it, for sure.”

Hays CISD says while the fire’s cause is still under investigation, investigators told school officials that in preliminary investigations, they believe the fire could have started due to an electrical issue caused by the portable’s air conditioning unit freezing.

“I’m very grateful that it was at night and not during the day,” said the school’s principal, Yvette Soliz, who added she’s not taking any more chances with her students in the portables. “We’re keeping teachers and students inside until we get a thumbs up from the fire department that things are looking, that they’re just looking safe.”

The district says the fire caused about $250,000 worth of damage. Insurance will replace the building, however, Soliz says it will not cover the thousands of dollars worth of classroom comforts and school supplies bought by both teachers and students.

“We do live in a low socioeconomic community, so a lot of the parents do struggle to get a lot of the children’s supplies,” Rivera-Brown said.

The school’s PTA is asking for monetary donations in the form of cash, checks and gift cards to help replenish the classrooms.

Any money raised by the community will be used for extra supplies for the kids, according to the district.

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