3 adults injured after ceiling collapse at MSCS school

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 12:37 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2022 at 5:11 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Students at a Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) K-8 school were evacuated Monday morning.

Memphis Police Department says they were called to Cummings K-8 on Cummings Street, just before noon where it was reported that a ceiling collapsed.

The drop-down ceiling reportedly fell down during school hours. It happened in the school’s library area.

Three adults were taken to the hospital in non-critical condition. No children were injured or in the library at the time of the collapse.

Students were immediately evacuated, and parents picked up their children at Metropolitan Baptist Church. MSCS announced that Cummings students will attend school at LaRose Elementary for the rest of the week.

“The ceiling, the drop-down ceiling, collapsed into the library area,” said Interim Superintendent John Barker.” There was a ceiling above that, and many of you all know that in construction projects there’s a drop-ceiling put in. That’s what fell in.”

Barker says all schools are checked prior to the start of the school year.

“This is absolutely an unfortunate situation,” Barker said. “This building was built in 1961, so it is a little bit more of an aged building,” he added. “What we’ll be able to do is take a look at that building structure there. It’s very very fortunate that no one was injured in a major way.”

In May, MSCS proposed a $55 million capital improvement projects budget, $33 million more than what was currently budgeted, to improve the 33 district schools that are over 50 years old.

The district said they wanted to renovate many of these buildings and, in some cases, demolish the old buildings and start fresh.

Cummings falls into that category, but Barker says age doesn’t necessarily mean a safety hazard.

Barker and Angela Whitelaw, the district’s other interim superintendent, both say safety should not be an issue for parents.

“What we do is we check before every school year, and we check throughout the year to make sure that the buildings are safe. Everyone should be committed and convinced that we do have safe schools,” Barker said.

MSCS Deputy Superintendents give updates on the collapse of the Cummings K-8 library ceiling,...
MSCS Deputy Superintendents give updates on the collapse of the Cummings K-8 library ceiling, which resulted in a school-wide evacuation and 3 people placed in the hospital.(WMC)

“We will be assessing this particular issue and make sure that our students are safe, but that is our number one goal other than academic achievement, that all of our students are safe coming to school,” Whitelaw said.

The Memphis Fire Department is checking the structure of the building. For now, the district says the incident is “an anomaly.”

Parents and guardians were informed shortly after the collapse via text, but were told there was “a maintenance issue.”

“I didn’t even get a phone call. I had to hear it from my friend that Cummings kids were being moved to Metropolitan. I just got out of my bed and came on,” grandparent Peggy Gibson said.

Some went as far as to say they don’t know if they’ll feel safe ever letting their children go back to the school.

“Yes, yes (I’m) very nervous. It makes me want to homeschool for a while. The building, they’ve been working on it for a while. They should’ve had this up a long time ago. When they were building up on the school,” Gibson said.

For now, leaders are breathing a sigh of relief that this incident did not result in any injury to students.

MSCS wants parents with additional questions to reach out to their call center at (901) 416-5300.

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