STILLMORE — Though rubble is all that remains of a century-old school building in Stillmore after an Aug. 14 lightening-induced fire, David Emanuel Academy’s headmaster Marion Shaw calls the school’s current state “miraculous.”
The new school year began on Aug. 12, but lightening struck the school’s historic columned building two days later, Shaw said.
After just one week of clean-up, DEA resumed classes this past Monday with little or no evidence of a fire in any of the school’s other buildings, Shaw said.
“We had crews with cleaning and drying equipment working on the school first thing Sunday morning after the fire,” he said.
While the loss of the building that held memories from the early 1900s was tragic, Shaw said it was a miracle the fire did not spread to any other buildings. The library that stood only a wall away from the raging fire remained untouched, along with every book on its shelves, he said.
The thick brick wall between the two connected buildings acted as a firewall that protected the others from damage, Shaw said.
After a thorough cleaning, the once smoke-caked ceilings in the hall adjacent to the fire now look like new, and fresh carpet in the building has eliminated almost all the smoke odor, he said.
Shaw attributed the quick clean-up to the DEA board, staff, and the community, who were all working 12 hours a day to get the school up to code, according to the demands of the fire marshal.
Shaw was told that the building’s brick frame, still standing after the fire, was very unstable and had to be torn down for safety purposes. The board plans for the bricks to be saved and cleaned. Shaw said they plan to sell some of the bricks to raise money and then use the bricks to build a park area in front of the school.
“When we were told it had to be torn down, there were actually crews waiting and ready to get to work,” Shaw said.
He commended David Coursey, Mitchell Johnson and their crews for their work, along with All Green Services.
Shaw said that 90 percent of the work done in the aftermath of the fire was done with no cost for labor.
Not only has the community pitched in to help DEA recover, Shaw said that surrounding schools like Bulloch Academy, Thomas Jefferson Academy, Robert Toombs Christian Academy, Pinewood Christian Academy, Westminster Christian Academy, and others have donated desks, books and other items to help recuperate their losses.
While three classrooms were lost, along with a wrestling gym, and the science lab, classroom space has been reconfigured as a temporary fix until further plans are made. One class is currently being held in the library, for example.
The donations and generosity of various businesses, schools, and individuals is amazing, Shaw said. The new crop of yearbooks had just come, he said. Still in their boxes, $17,000 worth of books were destroyed along with the building where they awaited distribution. Another miracle: the yearbook company Herff-Jones has offered to replace the entire order for free, he said.
“Most of all,” Shaw said, “I’d like to thank the firefighters who came from the surrounding areas.”
“They did a beautiful job,” he said.
DEA will hold a special recognition and meal at next Friday’s game during half-time for the contributing crews from Stillmore, Emanuel County, and Candler County.
A board meeting is scheduled for Monday night when members will be putting together a survey for the school’s stakeholders.
The idea is to get a vision of where the school should go from here.
“Before we can plan and go forward, there must be a vision,” Shaw said.