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Ceiling collapse forces closing of Cummings school; three staffers injured

Cummings Optional K-8 School is 1.5 miles from LaRose Elementary School, which is where Cummings’ students will be rerouted for the remainder of the week after the tile ceiling in the school’s library collapsed on Monday.

According to Memphis Fire Department officials, the collapse of the library’s tiles caused non-critical injuries to three staff members, including the librarian. All three were taken to the hospital as a precaution. There were no students in the library at the time, and at no time was any student in danger, school administrators said.

Memphis Police Department officers rushed to Cummings, located at 1037 Cummings St. in South Memphis, to assess what safety issues needed addressing. Fire Department officials were then called to assist in the evaluation. Fire personnel determined that the safest course of action was to evacuate students from the building.

Classes were immediately canceled, and students were taken to nearby Metropolitan Baptist Church. Parents, relatives, and family friends arrived and lined up for an orderly pick-up process.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools Board Chair Michelle McKissack said the ceiling collapse was a perfect example of why the district should be concerned about safety hazards created by schools housed in older buildings. She has been a strong proponent of securing the revenue to shore up older schools.

On Twitter, McKissack posted:

“Thankful ALL students at Cummings School in Dist. 1 are OK! I was 5 min away from the school when the ceiling collapsed. Rushed over to assist the principal, staff, students & parents. Thanks to Memphis Fire, Police & Metropolitan Baptist for all their help in keeping kids safe.”

Memphis-Shelby County Schools representatives called Cummings student families and informed them that school would be dismissed early because of a “maintenance issue.” Families were also briefed on student pick-up at the church.

When the evacuation order was issued, students were transported to the church, where lunch was served, and school staff reassured youngsters that all was well.

The incident follows a much different event at the school last Wednesday (Aug. 10) when Julius Lewis, who operates a highly successful entertainment promotion company, donated $50,000 to the school he once attended. Following that presentation, students were treated to a live concert by two of Lewis’ recording artists.

Fire officials confirmed that the roof collapse at Cummings occurred with the library’s drop ceiling. No structural damage was found. A structural assessment of the school building will be undertaken while Cummings is closed the rest of this week.

Cummings opened in 1961 and operates with 38 classrooms.

LaRose is located at 864 Willoughby. The arrival time is 8:15 a.m. LaRose’s school day extends from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Bus transport will be offered to and from the LaRose campus, but direct drop-off at LaRose is encouraged and appreciated, district officials said.

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