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Joplin schools superintendent confident in quick recovery

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | 11:03 a.m. CDT; updated 1:15 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Sunday's weather carved a path through western Joplin that leveled most buildings in the central Joplin area.

JOPLIN — The Joplin school district will be ready for school to start again on Aug. 17, despite the destruction of four schools and uncertainty about the fate of some staff and students following Sunday's devastating tornado, superintendent C.J. Huff said.

Six other buildings were also damaged, and cost estimates are as high as $100 million, Huff said, adding that the buildings are fully insured.

"We're trying to take inventory of our assets and determine what it is we have to even use as a school," Huff told The Joplin Globe for a story published Wednesday. "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. We definitely have a deadline, and we're looking to make that happen."

The district has not decided if it will be able to hold any type of summer school, he said.

"We have kids that need some sense of normalcy, and getting them in school may be a good thing, but the question is facilities and planning," Huff said. "Certainly, we don't want to hinder the community in planning the rebuild and doing the demolition that needs to take place. But ideally, we'd like to have summer school."

Joplin High School, Franklin Technical Center, and Irving and Emerson elementary schools were destroyed. McKinley, Kelsey Norman, Cecil Floyd and Duenweg elementary schools, and the district's administration building, were damaged.

Huff said he is discussing having students attend schools in other districts, if necessary, and structural engineers are assessing the possible usefulness of the former South Middle School.

Another important step is determining a preliminary estimate on possible student enrollment in the fall.

"A lot of families have already left the community in a kind of Hurricane Katrina effect," Huff said. "The big question now is how many kids we're going to have coming back this fall."

Since the tornado, the district has been urging students and staff to check in and using Facebook to communicate.

"We are having a pretty high degree of success locating families and staff," Huff said. "The majority of teachers have checked in, and we're getting more all the time. We really feel blessed. We've had several close scares, but those have all turned out to be OK."

Joplin High School principal Kerry Sachetta said he has received no confirmed reports of high school students who have died.

Siri Ancha, who will be a senior this fall, visited the site of the destroyed school on Tuesday.

"I think that one of my biggest fears is that maybe they'll split us up, like maybe by alphabetical order," Ancha said.

Sarah Stickland graduated from Joplin High School on Sunday, shortly before the tornado hit.

"It's really unbelievable and I can't quite fathom it yet because every day for so long you dread walking into this building and it's all crammed with kids," she said. "But I wish that if I had the opportunity, I could walk through the halls again and be surrounded by a mass of people."


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