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Terlingua school launches fundraising effort after fire destroys band and robotics building

The aftermath of a fire that destroyed a Terlingua Common School District building on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (Terlingua CSD)
Terlingua CSD
The aftermath of a fire that destroyed a Terlingua Common School District building on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (Terlingua CSD)

The tiny school district in Terlingua, Texas has launched a fundraising effort to replace students’ instruments and personal belongings that were lost in a fire that destroyed a school building last week.

The Terlingua Common School District said the fire broke out late Thursday night and completely destroyed a portable building that served as the school’s band hall and robotics team lab.

“We lost all of our band instruments, a lot of sheet music, some personal items and personal instruments, not only from our director but from our kids,” said Terlingua CSD Superintendent Reagan Reed.

The robotics team lost all of its parts, equipment and tools, while the fire also destroyed about 50 Chromebook computers the small district was preparing to use for testing later this year.

Reed said the school’s insurance policy should cover the costs of replacing the building itself and any district-owned property, but fundraising efforts are underway to replace personal items lost in the fire.

“We’re just starting to get in a list from parents and kids” of what was lost and how much will be needed to replace the items, he said.

Terlingua school fire 2
Terlingua CSD
A view of the fire that destroyed a Terlingua Common School District portable building.

The district is taking direct donations that will be distributed to separate band and robotics team accounts.

Officials still don’t know what caused the late night fire, which didn’t injure any students or school employees.

Brewster County Judge Greg Henington, the county’s top elected official, said the state fire marshal was initially tapped to investigate the fire but was too busy to travel to the area.

“He looked at pictures and ruled it inconclusive,” Henington said in a text message.

Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson said the building was so completely destroyed that “there was nowhere for them to start” on investigating.

“It’s going to go down as an unknown,” he said.

The fire came just before the school’s robotics team was set for a regional competition in Lubbock. Students on the team are still headed to the event Feb. 24-25, Reed said, in part because of their own fast action.

The superintendent said immediately after the fire, the robotics team came up with a plan to borrow equipment from another school in El Paso so they could move forward with the competition.

“It’s been pretty extraordinary what the kids took care of, and they didn’t even need us, they had that all ready to go,” he said. “We’re real proud of what they’ve done.”

Reed said the district has already seen a flurry of people reaching out asking how they can help in the wake of the fire.

“It’s just been overwhelming,” he said.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.