Mayflower, Vilonia students to return to classes Monday

By Tammy Keith Published May 4, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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FAULKNER COUNTY — School will resume Monday in tornado-ravaged Mayflower and Vilonia, and both districts will offer counseling services for students.

“We’ve got about 75 children that have been displaced in the district,” Mayflower Superintendent John Gray said, “and they’re sort of spread all over the place.”

Three people in Mayflower were killed in the tornado, and eight in Vilonia, including two children who were students at Vilonia Primary School. Four tornado victims were hospitalized at Conway Regional Medical Center as of Thursday; two were listed in serious condition and two in good condition, said Lori Ross, hospital spokeswoman.

A male patient in critical condition had been transferred to another hospital, she said.

For days, the Mayflower district had no electricity or water because of tornado damage in the city, Gray said.

“We’ve got electricity and water now, and we’re going to run the bus routes the best we can,” Gray said. “We’re asking parents to call the school if they have transportation issues, and we’ll try to collect [the students].”

He said parents can call Doug Jones, transportation supervisor, at (501) 470-1344.

“We’ll have counseling services set up the first day,” Gray said.

Vilonia Superintendent Frank Mitchell said counseling will be offered at Vilonia Primary School, particularly, because the two children who were killed in the April 27 tornado attended the school.

They were Cameron Smith, 9, and his brother, Taylor Smith, 7.

In addition to school counselors, Mitchell said, he had called the Ministerial Alliance, and that Counseling Associates of Conway had volunteered to help.

He said an all-call had gone out to parents that the district would “try to reopen Monday,” but as of Thursday, the only phones working in the district were at Vilonia Primary School.

“Unless they’re notified differently, we’ll have school,” Mitchell said. “Right now, the plans are to be there.”

Mitchell said he wasn’t sure how many students were displaced by the storm.

Vilonia Mayor James Firestone said 183 structures in the city were damaged — businesses and homes — based on reports from the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster-assessment team that has visited the area. “That was any kind of damage that looked like it was caused by the tornado,” he said.

“We told them if they were displaced out of their homes, and they had to move into another school district and they wanted to keep their kids in school here, they need to either come by my office or call [the] primary school or go by there, and we needed the information — ages of their kids and district they’re living in,” Mitchell said. “I think they can go anyway, because they’re classified as homeless, but we would would call other districts as a courtesy.

“Plus, if … they’re rebuilding a house and it might be October or November, we’ll give them a choice form to fill out, and they’d be able to do that and stay in the district.”

Trena Mitchell, testing coordinator for the Vilonia district, said students are scheduled to take AP environmental science and AP psychology tests on Monday.

“We have to contact the Department of Ed for a different schedule for End-of-Course biology,” she said. Students missed the two days last week scheduled for that test.

“We’re trying to get End-of-Course geometry in the mail,” she said.

Because of damage to infrastructure, Trena said, officials were having trouble accessing the state database on computer.

“We’re looking through paper copies of the kids’ records,” she said.

Trena said state Department of Education officials have been understanding of the district’s unique situation.

“They have been wonderful to work with and everything,” she said.

Gray said Mayflower 10th-graders will start the End-of-Course biology test on Tuesday.

“Of course, we have end-of-year plays, end-of-year choir performances, the end-of-year awards assembly already scheduled. We’re going to have to compromise a little,” he said.

Gray said a baccalaureate service scheduled for 2 p.m. today at the school has been canceled.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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