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North Little Rock church opens doors for elementary school

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 - 2:59 PM CST

Students arrive
Clinton Elementary students arrive for their first day of classes at First Assembly in North Little Rock.

On Wednesday, First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Arkansas, opened its doors to welcome more than 750 students and 80 staff members from Clinton Magnet Elementary School.

The church is providing its building to temporarily house Clinton Elementary, which cannot hold classes in its own building due to structural damages to the roof.

First Assembly Youth Pastor Patrick Lander has served as the primary liaison between the church and the school. He says the school district called him last Friday morning and informed him that Clinton Elementary had to close down for an undetermined amount of time. First Assembly had previously housed another elementary school when its building was damaged, so district officials knew the church of approximately 2,250 people was capable of helping once again.

Because First Assembly places a high priority on serving its community, Lander quickly agreed to accommodate the school.

"We understand it's our responsibility as the church," Lander explains. "When they turn to us for a need or for help, we know that our answer has to be yes."

By Friday afternoon, all the details had been arranged and over the weekend First Assembly staff and volunteers worked hard to prepare the church building for the arrival of Clinton Elementary staff and students.

On Tuesday, the day before classes began, the teachers moved into their classrooms. In light of what could have been a big disruption to the school year, they were grateful to have a place for their students.

"It's been an exciting experience to see teachers literally crying when they first come in and see that they are going to make it," Lander recounts. "It's those moments that make it all worth it."

When the Clinton Elementary students arrived Wednesday, First Assembly was all ready to begin its stint as substitute school.

"The first day of classes ran even smoother than we expected," says Lander. "The students were excited like the first day of school all over again. They had big smiles on their faces and seemed to love the change of environment. Not to mention, they loved being in some of the areas designed for our church's kids and students."

Pastor directs traffic
Children's Pastor Gary Tomlinson helps direct traffic as parents drop their children off for school.

Twenty-three of First Assembly's classrooms are being used, as well as several large meeting spaces and a few offices for the school's administrative staff. Lander says with a little tweaking, First Assembly will still be able to hold their Wednesday and Sunday classes in those rooms.

At this time, school district officials do not know how long Clinton Elementary will remain at First Assembly. According to Lander, they hope to return to their school by January, but the students could be at the church for the remainder of the school year.

No matter how long the stay lasts, First Assembly members believe welcoming Clinton Elementary is a chance to make a positive impact in North Little Rock.

As Lander explains, "We understand that hosting the school has created many opportunities to demonstrate Christ's love to our community and many families who typically do not attend church."

To learn more about First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, visit the church's Web site.

Authors: Kara Chase

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