Friday marks a year since the Mitchell School gym burned to the ground and displaced elementary students through the end of the school year.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 27, 2014, Racine Fire Department crews responded to Mitchell School for reports of a fire. When firefighters arrived, they found a blaze that engulfed the gym.
The water used to extinguish the blaze and resulting smoke and soot damaged the hallways and classrooms outside the gym, causing the elementary school to relocate to the recently closed Wind Point Elementary. Middle school students stayed put, but their return to class was delayed a few days.
Response from the community was nothing short of amazing. Neighbors, businesses, and organizations banded together to support the Mitchell School community with donations of school supplies, cash for classroom items and fundraisers for the money to fill in the blanks.
In a letter to the community featured in The Journal Times, Mitchell School Principal Soren Gajewski recalled that awful night and the outpouring of support that followed.
“As overwhelming as this experience was for many of us, we were equally overwhelmed and amazed by the incredible outpouring of support by the greater Racine community,” he wrote. “Donations in the form of supplies, gift cards, cash and fellowship were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. While the school district does have insurance for its assets, the donations were (and still are) critical in getting immediately back to the business of education. Our school community is so grateful to the businesses and families that supported our mission of getting students back to school.”
Gajewski admitted he was surprised to see how important Mitchell School is to the Racine Unified community and said he, his staff and his students will pay everyone back by paying it forward.
“Today, one year later, I wish to thank everyone for their support of our Mitchell Schools then and now, as well as their support for education in Racine. Our staff and students promise to repay this support with many highly qualified firefighters, police officers, educators, business leaders and citizens in the years to come,” the letter concludes.
Click here for complete coverage of the Mitchell School fire.