Investigators are now trying determine what caused a Lubbock pre-school to catch fire early this morning. NewsChannel 11 was there from the beginning when fire crews arrived at Southwest Private School just before four o'clock. The school is located at 38th and Quaker, but we could see flames and smoke miles away from our tower cam.
About 80 pre-school age students attended the school and, as you can imagine, parents were shocked to find the building on fire. The fire lasted about eight hours and, it wasn't until noon, that investigators were able to begin searching for a cause. NewsChannel 11's Kealey McIntire has more on what will come of the school.
The Southwest Private school opened nearly 40 years ago, and it's been pretty visible over the years. You may recall seeing encouraging messages posted on the fence with cups, but you may not see those messages anymore. That's because the center may not re-open.
It's before sunrise Monday morning and already the sky is lit up, but with fire, filling the air with smoke.
"We come down slide and i saw a big black thing of smoke."
That's what Alicia Ollivares saw blocks away as she headed toward Southwest Private School to take her daughter to school. A police officer told her the school was on fire.
"It was pretty devastating. Of course there were tears, my little girl just died crying," she said.
News of the tragedy travelled fast. Just hours after the fire, the school's owner, Celia Pruitt, told several teary-eyed parents of her plans. Pruitt says she planned on retiring in August 2008, but instead Monday is the school's last day.
Pruitt declined an on-camera interview, but tells us she has no immediate plans to re-open, leaving dozens of parents like Chrissy Huffman scrambling to find child care.
"It's a home away from home," Huffman said of the child care center.
Huffman says it was a long, hard search to find the quality of care provided at Southwest and hopes the community rallies to help keep it open.
"I finally found what I probably think is the greatest daycare, so I hope someone can help them out and keep them going," she said.
Pruitt just asks for your prayers, it's Pruitt's faith that Ollivares says she will miss about the school.
"They get to do vacation bible school, that's a good lesson for her (my daughter), especially for me not knowing the first thing about introducing the Lord into her life the right way. So I don't think anyone can hold a candle to that," she said.
The fire marshall's office is investigating the cause. We're told almost every square inch sustained fire damage and that few items can be recovered.