Joplin teachers hope to have items salvaged from schools

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 | 2:22 p.m. CDT

JOPLIN — When contractors begin demolishing the shell of the former Joplin High School, they will have a list of things that district teachers and staff hope can be salvaged before the walls of the tornado-damaged building come down.

District superintendent C.J. Huff said contracts to demolish the building, destroyed in the massive May 22 tornado, are nearly final and the work should begin in the next two weeks.

Huff said building principals have submitted lists of items that staff members would like to have salvaged. Items on the lists will have to be tested for asbestos, which can be costly.

"We have to weigh the cost-benefit analysis on each individual item on what it's going to take to clean it up," Huff said.

Joplin High School's band director Rick Castor is hoping that hundreds of music scores and pieces that are no longer in print — including the school fight song — can be salvaged, The Joplin Globe reported Wednesday.

"We think it's still on the shelves, but we don't know how much is salvageable or not," he said. "I would like to get the chance to try."

Castor said some of the sheet music is irreplaceable. The music department's losses from the tornado totaled $3.7 million, including sheet music, instruments, electronics, risers and flats, with the sheet music library alone worth between $600,000 and $1 million, he said.

Donations to the music department have come in from across the country since the high school was destroyed, including $300,000 worth of musical instruments from entertainer Barry Manilow. Castor said the district has about enough instruments but not enough sheet music.

Contractors will try to salvage items of high monetary and historical value, Huff said. That includes the school safe, the sheet music, student records, instruments, brass plaques and the brick mural of an eagle on the exterior wall of the gym, which will be relocated to the new Joplin High School.

Huff said some of the items will be too expensive or dangerous to save. Several walls in the high school have collapsed and crews will have to determine how safe certain areas are, he said.

"The more we can salvage out of the high school the better, within reason," Huff said. "We can't spend months salvaging debris. It's just like people with their homes. At some point, you just have to walk away, and that's hard."

Huff said the district had some problems with thefts from the school buildings damaged or destroyed by the tornado. The district erected a fence and worked with police for regular patrols and surveillance of the high school.

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