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WMES students heading back to their school

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Power has been restored to elementary school

By Stephen Lega

West Marion Elementary students' day away from their own school has come to an end.
Due to a power outage early Tuesday morning, West Marion students were sent to St. Charles Middle School for most of the school day. Shortly after 1 p.m., buses arrived at SCMS to take the elementary students back to their school.
Approximately 330 students attend St. Charles Middle. By taking advantage of empty classrooms, hallway space, the school library, the gymnasium and the stage, the middle school was able accommodate more than 400 additional students from the elementary school as well.
“It's really run smoothly today,” St. Charles Principal John Brady said. “We found space for all the kids, and we've gone right on with instruction without any disruptions.”
A power outage early April 26 affected 630 customers in the Loretto and St. Francis areas, according to Kentucky Utilities. KU received its first report of an outage at 4:26 a.m.
West Marion Principal Benji Mattingly said he received a call around 4 a.m. from an alarm company notifying him that the power was out at his school. He went to the school, and after verifying that the power was out, he contacted Scott Spalding, the transportation director for the district, and Kentucky Utilities.
"They predicted we would be out for another seven or eight hours," Mattingly said.
Initially, KU estimated that it would have power restored by 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, but electrical workers finished their work sooner than anticipated.
Interim Marion County Schools Superintendent Steve Burkich said he learned that power was out at West Marion around 6:30 a.m.
"We had students en route," Burkich said.
School officials quickly made arrangements to send the West Marion students and staff to St. Charles. Brady said he contacted staff and asked them to be at school by 7:30 a.m. Or as soon as possible after that.
Middle school students were directed to their homerooms upon arrival, while the West Marion students waited in the gymnasium for school to begin.
Meanwhile, West Marion teachers were swinging by the elementary school to get any supplies they would need for the day. Mattingly remained at West Marion for a little bit to let parents know that their students needed to go to St. Charles instead.
"Everybody's been very understanding, very patient," he said. "We haven't had any issues."
Sarah Hutchins, a West Marion fourth-grade teacher, was impressed when she arrived at the middle school. She said the students were organized in rows in the gym just as they would have been at the elementary school.
Chuck Spalding, who runs the youth service centers for St. Charles and West Marion, helped find spaces for the elementary teachers to have class, Mattingly said.
Younger students were taken to vacant classrooms, and makeshift classrooms were set up in the hallways and in the media center. The older elementary students gathered in different areas of the gymnasium for their classes.
Hutchins said the students and the teachers took the situation in stride.
"They just kind of musical-chaired it," she said.
Scott Spalding and Judie Gaddie, the food service director, made the necessary arrangements for all the students to get lunch, and the schools worked together to make sure the students who receive medications during the school day received them, Mattingly said.
Hutchins said the West Marion staff appreciated all the help provided by the faculty and staff at St. Charles to accommodate them for the day.
As West Marion students were getting on buses to return to the elementary school, a teacher made a point to thank Brady for all the help they received. 

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"I enjoyed it," Brady replied.