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School resumes in West, Texas after plant explosion; Obama to attend memorial

April 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Classes resumed Monday in schools in the town of West, Texas, a week after a massive fertilizer plant explosion. The explosion last Monday killed 14 and injured 200 others.

Some students attended classes in trailers behind school buildings that were damaged in the blast. Other students were bused out of the city to once-abandoned campuses.

Some parents took the day off to walk or drive their children to school.

Dozens of homes in the city of 2,700 people were damaged in Wednesday's explosion at West Fertilizer Co., and part of the town remains off limits. Authorities said Monday they are conducting a "slow and methodical" search of the site. And West Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek said restoring water and natural gas to the town could take weeks.

Counselors were in each classroom and available separately for students still dealing with the emotions of the blast - almost everyone in the town knew someone killed, hurt or displaced. Some teachers who reported to work Monday had not been home since the blast, said Jan Hungate, assistant superintendent at West Elementary.

Her school had its normal bunch of pre-K through sixth-graders, but also set up trailers behind the building for intermediate students. Middle-and high-school students were bused from the dealership to a spruced-up vacant school in neighboring Connally district.

West and Connally are rivals - or were until Wednesday night. Connally got to work almost immediately, as volunteers and staff painted hallways, scrubbed floors and stocked classrooms with supplies. Signs were planted along the route to the building: "Welcome West Trojans."

Holt said they also placed binders, notebooks and pens on each desk. Other districts donated furniture, and a food-service company prepared the cafeteria, he said.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said state officials have offered to waive end-of-year tests and other requirements as needed. Hungate said the district was considering several options on testing.

The White House said on Monday that President Barack Obama will attend a memorial service for victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West. The service is scheduled for Thursday at Baylor University.

Last week's blast left 14 people dead and injured 200 others.

Federal and state investigators are still trying to determine what caused the fire that set off the explosion. Authorities say there are no signs of criminal intent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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