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Fire destroys Houston home Saturday morning

HOUSTON – A Saturday morning fire destroyed an East Madison Street home but caused no injuries, Houston Fire Chief Jonathan Blankenship said Sunday afternoon.

No one was home at the time, firefighters said.

The fire is believed to have started in the attic area. The cause remains under investigation.

Firefighters dispatched via 911 call about 9:08 a.m. found smoke and fire had broken through the roof of the one floor brick residence in multiple spots “from one end of the attic to the other,” the fire chief said.

Rhodes Chapel and Thorn volunteer fire departments were called in for extra manpower, and reinforcements soon arrived, Blankenship said.

Despite firefighters’ best efforts, “the house was a total loss. The fire had too much of a head start before we were called,” he said.

Firefighters cleared the scene about noon, but returned several times later that day and Sunday to douse hotspots.

The householder is now staying with a relative.

“We want to thank the firefighters who turned out from all three departments, along with police who managed traffic at the scene, and CareMed EMS ambulance service,” the fire chief concluded.

Bovay Foundation donation provides Houlka Attendance Center 9th graders with graphing calculators

HOULKA – A recently-received $3,946.32 donation from the Bovay Foundation has been used to purchase graphing calculators to help about 32 Houlka Attendance Center 9th graders master rigorous algebra courses required for graduation, district officials told a recent meeting of parents and students.

The calculators were given away at a parent meeting. Each 9th grade student received one calculator, which is theirs to keep. Each student will be responsible for taking care of his or her own calculator. There will be no replacements for damaged or lost calculators.

Those at the meeting also learned many other details of the purchase, which took place during the final year of a three-year pilot program with the graphing calculators.

According to Wikipedia, a graphing calculator (also graphics / graphic calculator) is a handheld computer that is capable of plotting graphs, solving simultaneous equations, and performing other tasks with variables. Most popular graphing calculators are also programmable, allowing the user to create customized programs, typically for scientific/engineering and education applications. Because they have large displays, graphing calculators also typically display several lines of text and calculations at the same time.

District officials said that the Bovay Foundation may add additional years to the calculator grant if Algebra test scores continue to improve and the students take care of the calculators.

“There is a great need for graphing calculators for our 9th grade students who take Algebra I. At the end of the year, students enrolled in Algebra I must take and pass a state assessment in order to meet graduation requirements.

“Therefore, the core curriculum in Algebra I is very rigorous. In order for our students to be successful, it is imperative for our students to have access to a graphing calculator at school and at home,” District Superintendent Dr. Betsy Collums told the meeting.

Having a graphing calculator at home and being able to work and practice on assignments will help strengthen students’ skills in Algebra I.

Students will also be able to use the calculators through their high school careers to help them prepare for college and help them toward career readiness, Dr. Collums said.

The school only has a classroom set for use during school, but the school does not allow the students to take the calculators out of the classroom. It’s a disadvantage to students, she said.

“Our school is taking part in a program sponsored by the state department called Algebra Nation. A major component of this program is that students have access to a tutor online to help them with Algebra I. The calculators can be used for these online tutoring sessions,” Dr. Collums said.

Carra Turner, Algebra I teacher, teaches the students the many functions of the calculator. With proper instruction on how to use and take care of the calculators, the students could have these calculators throughout their school and college careers, school officials said.