West ISD moves out the portables 3 years after deadly explosion

(Photo by Ethan Hutchins)
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WEST, Texas (KWTX) West’s new middle and high school campus is nearly finished, and the portable buildings that served as temporary classrooms for hundreds of students after the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in April 2013 are being moved out.

The first of the portable buildings was loaded onto a trailer last week for delivery to a school district in Louisiana and 17 more will follow.

The new campus will be ready for students when the school year begins on Aug. 24, but the move from portable to permanent will be bittersweet for students who’ve attend classes in the temporary buildings for the past three years, according to athletic director and head football coach David Woodard.

"We made a lot of good memories here, and it is a little bittersweet. This is where we spent the last few years, and it's been a unique experience for us," Woodard said.

The April 17, 2013 explosion heavily damaged West’s intermediate, middle and high schools, which ultimately were razed.

In the immediate aftermath of the blast, the neighboring Connally ISD offered its old intermediate school and students in grades 7 through 12 finished the school year in the temporary quarters, while Pre-K through 6th grade students attended class at West Elementary School, which wasn’t seriously damaged.

During the summer of 2013, the portable buildings were brought in and set up on the site of the middle school, and when the school year got underway in the fall of 2013, students in Pre-K through grade 5 were sent to the elementary school, while those in grades six through 12 were housed in the temporary buildings.

District officials then went to work on a plan to rebuild, deciding ultimately to build a new campus to replace the middle and high schools, but not the intermediate school, and using the elementary school to house students through fifth grade.

Ground was broken on the new middle and high school complex in October 2014.

The explosion on April 17, 2013 claimed 15 lives, including those of 12 first responders, and injured about 250 others.

The blast destroyed or damaged scores of homes and buildings including a nursing home, an apartment complex and three of the town’s four schools, leaving a crater 93 feet across and 10 feet deep, and debris scattered debris over a 3,000-foot radius.