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“Carver is the anchor”: East Waco residents heartbroken by school fire

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 11:50 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Dozens of current and former students, parents and staff of G.W. Carver Middle School came to see what was left after an early morning fire Tuesday.

Officials have not said the structure is a total loss, but significant damage was done to the school library, gym, front offices and classrooms.

Shortly after it caught fire, school secretary Sandra Dorsey-Butler, who lives two doors down from the school, got a call that woke her up.

“Its my birthday. At 3:05 I got a call from my principal saying ‘Ms. Dorsey I wanted to call you later this morning to wish you a happy birthday but Carver is burning down,’” Dorsey-Butler explained.

She and her sister, Cynthia Dorsey Edwards, could see the flames from their window and walked to the school for a closer look.

“Flames were shooting up from the library from the administrative offices,” Dorsey-Butler explained.

Both their parents worked at the school when they were growing up, their father was was a vocational agriculture teacher before becoming executive director of OAC, and their mother worked as the school secretary.

They were part of the original faculty and staff when the school opened in 1956.

Edwards, class of 1968, graduated with the first group of students to go all the way from first to 12th grade at Carver back when it was a high school for the black community in Waco.

Dorsey-Butler graduated the following year as the last class to graduate before the high school closed.

Carver fire Dorsey sisters
Carver fire Dorsey sisters(Megan Vanselow)

Carver later reopened as a middle school and the Dorsey sisters say it has been the anchor of East Waco for decades.

“We have no grocery stores, cleaners or businesses that anchor this community but Carver is that anchor,” she explained.

They are optimistic though, that the strong foundation partially built by their parents will ensure a bright future for the students and staff of the school moving forward.

The school has too much damage to be ready for the upcoming school year, so its student body will be moved to Indian Spring, but Dorsey-Butler says they must rebuild G.W. Carver.

“I can’t even begin to talk about what all we lost in that school,” Transformation Waco CEO Dr. Robin McDurham said.

For Dorsey-Butler, it was a sweater, a personalized coffee mug and school yearbooks that come to mind of what she had left in her office.

Luckily, she kept a copy of most of the yearbooks at home too.

Rebecca Reyna’s two daughters went through G.W. Carver a few years ago, she looked on the burned building Tuesday holding onto to the memories of her girls in band.

“Its a building. Its lost but its the memories, no one can take those memories away from those children,” Reyna said.

“Once a Panther always a Panther, the community needs to come together now.”

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