The Joplin school district will be ready for classes to resume in August, despite the destruction of three schools and severe damage to six others by a massive tornado that plowed through the heart of the southwest Missouri city, Superintendent C.J. Huff says.
Districtwide, the damage was expected to reach $100 million, with the one solace that the buildings were insured.
“We’re trying to take inventory of our assets and determine what it is we have to even use as a school,” Mr. Huff told The Joplin Globe. “From that, we will start building a facilities plan, and what structures to focus on first to get them operational and ready to move into this fall.” Mr. Huff said the district was considering options for a temporary high school, including talking with retailers about warehouse space, and officials were discussing whether some students would have to attend schools in other districts.
One vital step for the district, like others that have faced large-scale disasters, will be determining how many students are likely to remain in Joplin and be enrolled in the fall. Mr. Huff said several families had already left the city of 50,000 residents.
The May 22 tornado was the deadliest single twister since the National Weather Service began keeping official records in 1950. At least 134 people were killed when it tore through the center of the city, flattening neighborhoods, reducing an estimated 8,000 homes and 500 buildings to rubble, and crushing vehicles. The weather service rated the storm an EF5, the strongest rating assigned to tornadoes, with winds of more than 200 mph.
The Joplin school system canceled classes for the rest of the school year in the aftermath of the storm. District officials, facing power outages and downed telephone lines, used Facebook and other social media to track down and communicate with their students and staff members.
A version of this article appeared in the June 08, 2011 edition of Education Week as Joplin Prepares to Rebuild After Deadly Tornado