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New Meadows of Dan Elementary School opens to community

By Justin Ward, jward@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jan 03 2014 07:02:26 PM EST
Updated On: Jan 03 2014 08:03:49 PM EST

Two years ago fire destroyed Meadows of Dan Elementary School. Tonight WDBJ7's Justin Ward shows us how that heartbreaking experience has turned into happiness.

PATRICK CO., Va. -

If you've never seen pure joy, just step inside the newly built Meadows of Dan Elementary School. It's on the faces of every teacher.

"Wow! This is, wow!" said Tammy Wood, a Kindergarten teacher who's taught at the school for 17 years.

This is the first time in more than two years teachers like Wood have had a real classroom in one building.

Friday Morning Principal Jeannie King gave us a tour.

"This is pre-k, pre-kindergarten. It does have it's own sink, it's own bathroom," King said.

It's those details we sometimes take for granted that seem to excite teachers the most.

Things like personal offices.

Ms. King shared hers with six other people. Quotes are now posted on her walls.
She read aloud one quote above a painting of the old school.

"'You are stronger than you see, braver than you believe, and smarter than you think you are' was really true during the fire."

In August 2011 a fire tore through the school. It took dozens of firefighters from 17 departments more than three hours to put out the flames started by an electrical issue.

Only the gym and cafeteria were saved, though drenched in water.

King and Patrick County school leaders immediately set up the gym as a makeshift school.

"Fifth, six, and seventh, and the stage was art," King says, pointing where partitions once stood splitting the classrooms in the gym.

Students then moved into these trailers behind the school, and have been there ever since. Until now, nearly 30 months later.

"Can you finally breathe a breath of relief knowing that this is pretty much the finished project?" I asked the principal.

"It is definitely exciting and it is like breathing a breath of fresh air to know we are finally back together under one roof," King said.

Crews built the school in the same spot as the old one. There's room now. Band, music, and art teachers each have their own space.

"The spirit, the way it feels, it feels good. I think it's a wonderful blend of the new and the old," Wood said.

The new school cost about five million dollars. Insurance is covering part of it. The community donated money too.

If there is such thing as normalcy at Meadows of Dan Elementary School, it will kick in Monday when students officially come back from winter break.