School Arson Investigation Ongoing

In December 2011, Kemper County High was devastated by fire. The fire was ruled an arson. More than a year later, classes are now resuming in the newly refurbished areas of the school. But the case remains unsolved.

An office behind the cafeteria was destroyed, there was extensive structural and smoke damage, and the main office and some classrooms were vandalized.

"We had some delays in the actual cleaning of the building," said principal Calvin Melton. "Everything we did, we had to get approval from the insurance company and it took some time to get done."

More than a dozen modular structures were used to house classrooms, the cafeteria and main office while the work took place. Because all of them were leased, Melton says within the next few days the company that owns them is set to get them.

Despite the damage and students being displaced Kemper County High did advance academically last year on state testing; the school moved up from 'At Risk of Failing' to 'Academic Watch,' status. This year the school is working to continue that progress.

Law enforcement is continuing its efforts to find the person or persons responsible for the fire.

"You have to be able to put the physical evidence with what you think and what you know and that part has been a little bit difficult," said Melton.

"That has been very hard in a lot of cases that we work here; people know a lot of things and just getting them to talk is tough," said Kemper County Sheriff James Moore. "We've offered reward money. That hasn't proven to be anything worthwhile, so we're going to continue to work on it; continue to offer the reward and continue to work on the case."

"I'm hoping that eventually the person or persons responsible will be brought to justice and I'm confident that they will," said Melton.