Student charged in Wheatley school fire - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Student charged in Wheatley school fire

A 15 year-old student was charged with arson this week following the fire that gutted Palestine-Wheatley Middle School.

The fire that ravaged the school gym and that spread so quickly left Wheatley families in limbo.

School principal Bonnie Fingers is getting the nearby civic center and old elementary school ready so that students can come back.  Back to the news that one of their own is charged with the setting the fire.

"We don't really have any idea what was gong on at the time.  We know it was in the gym of course.  I believe that a student went to the dressing room for some purpose but other than that, I don't know really what happened after that," she said.

Police tell us a 15 year-old student was charged with arson.  He was released to his parents.

The news of the arrest is already spreading through the small community.  "I suspected it.  But it's heartbreaking.  I feel for the parents, I really do," said Sarah Autrey, who lives next to the school.  She says the damage is immeasurable.

"We all feel like, we lose our school and we're gonna lose the whole town," she said.

Meanwhile, people who work for the school system there are still trying to figure out what happened.

Principal Fingers told us she understands the source is a furnace that was housed inside or near one of the gym dressing rooms.  She says the accused teenager was not a troublemaker.

"Well, I'm very very disappointed.  I don't think there was any maliciousness involved.  I think it was probably just playing around and maybe an accident... You know, hopefully.  I don't think this student meant to start a fire," she said.

School resumes for the rest of those displaced teenagers on Monday, and again, they'll be taking classes at the civic hall and in the old elementary school across the street.

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