Southern Indiana school district devises school return plan

HENRYVILLE, Ind.  — A tornado-ravaged southern Indiana community where three schools suffered heavy storm damage is moving ahead with plans for the schools' 1,200 students to finish out the school year in classrooms in nearby New Albany and Scottsburg.

Students from the three-school complex in Henryville will also be riding buses borrowed for neighboring districts to their new classrooms. The March 2 storms mangled many buses owned by West Clark Community Schools.

Superintendent Monty Schneider told the district's school board Thursday night that kindergartners through sixth graders will likely resume classes March 19 at the vacant Graceland Christian School campus in New Albany, about 15 miles south. He said junior and senior high school students are expected to return to classes after the system's March 26-30 spring break in the new Mid-America Science Park, which is about 11 miles north in Scottsburg.

The students have roughly 14 weeks left in the school year.

"Our goal was to try to keep the kids together and make them feel Henryville," Schneider said.

The district canceled this week's classes after the tornado outbreak, which killed 13 people in Indiana.

Last week's storms hit the three schools hard, leaving behind twisted metal roofing, mounds of bricks and damaged buses, including one that was thrown into a one-story building.

But all the students survived the back-to-back tornadoes that devastated the town about 20 miles north of Louisville, Ky.

Assistant District Superintendent John Reed told WTHR-TV that other districts are loaning buses to West Clark Community Schools so they can get to their temporary schools. He said many Henryville families don't have homes and some are now staying with relatives, so the normal bus stops aren't even there anymore.

"Right now what we have to concentrate on is finding where the kids are at," Reed said. "The teachers are contacting kids to see where they are, then we'll set up new routes for bussing."

He said it's not yet clear if the school year will be extended into the summer. Students are also missing ISTEP testing right now.

The school site that the younger students will be using, Graceland Christian School, is part of the Louisville-based Christian Academy system. The Graceland building has more than 20 classrooms, two gyms, a cafeteria and playground space.

Sally Riggs, Henryville's school librarian and the wife of Henryville Elementary principal Glen Riggs, told The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., that the building is not as modern as many schools, but teachers and staff can make it work.

She and her husband and other staff members have been working at Graceland to map out where each grade will hold classes.

Teachers will miss the smart boards in their classrooms, which also featured banks of student computers at Henryville, but Riggs said the teachers will persevere in the temporary classrooms.

"Our staff is excellent. They will rise to the occasion," she said.

The temporary school in Scottsburg for the junior and high school students will be inside a former brake-parts factory that's been converted into a science park. That complex is along Interstate 65.


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