Fire Hits a Region 8 School

March 22, 2004 -- Posted at 5:00 p.m. CST

Tuckerman, AR --Early indications show arson was likely not the cause of a school fire in Region 8.

Volunteer firefighters and police officers from Swifton and Tuckerman responded to an early morning fire at Tuckerman's Elementary School. School officials were forced to cancel school on the first day back from spring break.

Investigators are looking into what caused the fire that possibly originated in a storage room in the elementary school. Officials believe a malfunction with the electrical system may have caused it.

"2-3 classrooms were damaged," said Tuckerman Police Chief Joey Martin. "We have one area of our elementary library, and some water damage done to one corner of the cafeteria."

Superintendent Chester Shannon chose to cancel school this morning, because all 640 students in that district utilize the same cafeteria, which received substantial damage.

"The electricity had to be cut off.," said Shannon. "The gas had to be cut off, all those things will have to be tested before we do anything again, and the uncertainty about how structurally sound that roof is."

Officials do not believe arson was involved, but they say they will continue investigating with the help of other agencies. As for the estimated cost of the damage, they say it's too soon to tell.

"We're going to try to have the school up and going as soon as possible," said Martin.

The smell of smoke is still in the air outside the elementary school, and educators say this couldn't have come at a worse time. Students are expected to take the benchmark exam next week, and they say there's no telling when the school doors will re-open.

"We just have to sit down as administrators and see what we have to do from here," said Shannon.

Superintendent Shannon says the school district will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. He is considering having a few half days of school in the future to compensate for the missed days.