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Cummings students will stay at LaRose Elementary as delays slow repair of collapsed library ceiling

District seeks to avoid disruptions during standardized testing

A logo bears the words “Memphis Shelby County Schools”

MSCS officials recently decided that students at Cummings K-8 Optional School displaced by a collapsed library roof in August will remain at LaRose Elementary until the end of the year.

Ariel Cobbert for Chalkbeat

Because of a delay in repairs to a library ceiling that collapsed in August, students at Cummings K-8 Optional School will finish out the school year at nearby LaRose Elementary School in South Memphis.

While the repairs could still be done as early as this spring, Memphis-Shelby County Schools said in a news release, officials decided the Cummings students should remain at LaRose to avoid any disruptions during Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program testing.

The 40-year-old drop ceiling collapsed on Aug. 15, just a week after the school year started. No students were in the library at the time, but three staffers were injured, The Commercial Appeal reported. The collapse prompted MSCS to order reviews of buildings older than 70 years with drop ceilings, and called new attention to the issue of deferred maintenance in the schools. 

Over 33 of MSCS’ schools were built before 1950, meaning they are more than 70 years old. A study done eight years ago found that the district’s older buildings and equipment were deteriorating rapidly, Fox 13 News reported in August.

While Cummings was built in 1961, The Commercial Appeal reported that the structure that houses the library was built in 1930, and the drop ceiling was installed in 1982.

Around 300 students attend Cummings, while 233 attend LaRose. MSCS also praised Cummings’ principal, Dwana McGuire, and LaRose’s principal, Staci Hendrix, and their staffs for their leadership amid the emergency situation.

“We applaud how they have rallied their teams and supported students and families. They have epitomized the meaning of #MSCSTogether,” the release said.

Bureau Chief Tonyaa Weathersbee oversees Chalkbeat Tennessee’s education coverage. Contact her at tweathersbee@chalkbeat.org 

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