Students Attend School At Former Wal-Mart Building

An old Wal-Mart is now the school for 1,400 students in Jones County.

Students in Laurel returned to the classroom Tuesday for the first time since a tornado ripped through West Jones High School and Middle School on March 15th.

The school district and community worked together to convert a vacant Wal-Mart building on Highway 15 into classroom space.

The empty building was big enough to easily accommodate 14 hundred students. And Wal Mart agreed to offer the space "rent free."

The return to school is really a community pride project.

"If you have a 'C' prompt, I will give you instructions what to do," said Denise Graves to her 8th grade computer discovery students.

You'll find computer discovery class in what used to be the Wal Mart fabric department.

Students are back to the business of learning, thanks to a caring community.

"We have really pulled together the city and the county working together. Plus outside institutions are helping us too. We've done a great job and I'm just amazed with our personnel and administrators. Them getting us in school this fast," Graves said.

Principal Lavahn Moss wore a Wal-Mart vest on the first day back. He's proud the West Jones students missed just nine days of school after the tornado.

"There's approximately 90 classrooms in the front area of this old Wal-Mart facility. Then we have the band and two choral programs housed in the warehouse section of old Wal-Mart," Principal Moss said.

It will take some adjustment. But everyone told us the first day was going smoothly overall.

One of the biggest challenges for students and teachers is finding their way around, since all the hallways look the same. That's why everyone was given a map with a floor plan.

"It's been really crazy. It's hard to find your way. I've been lost like three times already," high schooler Brannon Harrington said.

David Hagan can relate. He faced similar problems trying to negotiate the portable, plywood hallways.

"It's a challenge. Like I said, everything looks the same here. I feel like a rat in a maze," Hagan said.

Students have plenty of time to figure out the maze. They'll be attending class in the old Wal-Mart for the rest of this school year.