Fire Badly Damages Charter School in Atlanta

ATLANTA --

Fire badly damaged a charter school in northwest Atlanta, closing for the day, preventing hundreds of students from attending class.

The school, Kipp West Atlanta Young Scholars Academy, is also known as Kipp WAYS Academy, on Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard. The school's website describes it as a "free college preparatory charter school serving students of West Atlanta." It is part of the Atlanta public school system.

Firefighters initially responded to a call at the school around 5:40 a.m., after a fire alarm went off. But after inspecting the building, firefighters found no visible signs of smoke or fire.

Then, shortly after 6 a.m., firefighters were again called to the school. This time, flames were shooting through the school's roof.

No one was hurt, a school official said. There were some tense moments, however, for some parents, worried about their childrens safety. Kimberly Traylor had just sent her daughter, Jerianna, off to class, only to find out the school was on fire. At first, she feared her daughter was inside the building.

Is my baby okay? Traylor asked. Im wondering, Wheres my baby?

Jerianna was still on the bus. She couldnt believe what she saw.

I seen flames burst up into the air and I was like, 'Oh my God, the school really is on fire!' Jerianna said.

Like any other student, the seventh grader, at first, was glad school was closed. But then reality sunk in.

I thought about it, and I was like, 'My binder and all my work is in the building,' and I was upset and crying, Jerianna said.

Fire investigators have determined that the fire was caused by an electrical problem, which started in the HVAC system on the roof.

The flames erupted in the attic and quickly burned through the roof, said Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran.

Parents like Darlene Scott were saddened to see the school they care so much about was so badly damaged.

Im devastated, Scott said. Were experiencing such a great loss. Were hopeful the school isnt as badly damaged as it appears to be.

When I walked up here and saw it burning, it was heart breaking, said David Jernigan, the executive director, who helped establish the school seven years ago. Jernigan was relieved that everyone was safe.

The good news is no one was in there. The kids are safe. Its not about the building. Its about the kids, Jernigan said.

The school temporarily will move into the former Turner Middle School on Monday. Classes start at 7 a.m.

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