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School evacuated due to strong odor, smoke

By Mehgaan Jones

mjones@news-daily.com

M.D. Roberts Middle School was evacuated for about an hour on Friday morning, after officials at the school noticed a strong odor, and smoke, in the front-hall area of the school -- and promptly called 911.

According to Clayton County Sheriff's Office spokesperson, Deputy Alicia Parkes, Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services, and deputies from the sheriff's office arrived on the scene before 8:30 a.m.

"Fire Department personnel ordered an immediate evacuation of the building," said Parkes. All of the students and staff were safely, and successfully, evacuated from the building, she added.

Parkes said that, after the evacuation, members of the fire department and the sheriff's office checked the entire school, which is located at 1905 Walt Stephens Road, in Jonesboro.

"At 9:13 a.m., the fire department deemed the building safe for re-entry," said Parkes. She added that sheriff's deputies assisted students and staff back into their classrooms. "Classes resumed as normal," said Parkes.

M.D. Roberts Principal Charmaine Johnson said that the cause of the smoke was a burned-out motor in one of the school's heating and air conditioning units.

"The problem has been fixed, and the unit is operational," said Parkes.

She said the fire department reset the fire alarm, and county maintenance workers checked all heating and air conditioning units. She added that there were no injuries -- or damage to the school.

"I just want to thank the sheriff's office and the fire department for working so fast to ensure that we were safe," Johnson said. "You all came out in large numbers, and the head of the sheriff's office, Sheriff [Kem] Kimbrough, came out to help. I am so thankful for that, and appreciate it.

"Staff from the [the school system's] central office came out as well, to assist, and were very helpful," added Johnson.