AJ Middle School students serve as role models while their school gets repaired

LANCASTER COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - Lancaster County School District is excited about students returning to Andrew Jackson (AJ) Middle School. The school caught fire back in March, sending more than 400 students to other schools.

The cost to repair the school is about $3 million. Leaders say that cost will be picked up by the insurance company, but officials say the work is taking longer than expected. Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Phipps says the work being done will give the school a complete makeover.

"We have upgrades to our lighting, we were able to paint all the classrooms, able to do new emergency evac system," Phipps said.

Phipps says the fire has caused the district to think about developing an action plan if a disaster would strike again at another school.

"It has forced us to look," Phipps said. "And I think every school district should do this - look to get an emergency plan in case something happens - what would you do."

The district's plan dealing with the aftermath of the fire consists of sending AJ Middle School students to a high school and two elementary schools while their school is being repaired. Some 7th graders were sent to Kershaw Elementary School. The principal says that plan is working out and the older students are on special assignment.

"We have 7th graders in our classrooms helping children learn how to read, how to write, learn how to edit. They help them with technology," Kershaw Elementary School Principal Kelli Farmer said.

Farmer says that so far there have been no issues with the older kids hanging out with the younger students.

"These middle school students have really stepped up and have been positive role models for our kids," the principal said.

The superintendent says this experience is not only good for the students but also good for the elementary school teachers who now get to work alongside middle school teachers.

"We have a lot of elementary teachers that have never worked with middle school," Phipps said. "I think it is giving them an opportunity of what really goes on during the day with middle schoolers."

AJ Middle school students say they like being looked up to as role models and are ready to live up to it.

"When I get older and have kids - if I do - I know how to treat and how to work with kids that age," AJ Middle School student PJ Duncan said.

Officials say AJ Middle should be ready for students to return on April 24.

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