UPDATE @ 7:55 p.m. (July 31): Brookville schools will open on time, Thursday, Aug. 15, school officials said in a Facebook post tonight that serves as an official announcement:
“Orientations, schedule pick ups and open house are all as originally planned,” the social media post reads. “...Thanks to everyone for your work, support, prayers and patience during our disaster recovery and restoration.”
EARLIER REPORT (July 26)
Brookville school officials believe they’ll be able to start the school year on time Aug. 15 after a summer of repairs to their tornado-damaged school building.
Superintendent Tim Hopkins said an official announcement will come in the middle of next week, so families have two weeks’ notice to plan for transportation and childcare routines.
“It’s a small community, and I live here in town, so I don’t go anywhere without people asking me, are we going to be able to start school on time?” Hopkins said. “I can tell you on the record with no problem that as I sit here today, we think we’re going to make it.”
Brookville’s K-12 school buildings are at a single campus site just south of Westbrook Road. The May 27 tornado hit the high school/intermediate school complex, ripping the roof off the back side of the high school wing.
That roof replacement has been a huge job, but it’s not the only piece of $2 million in renovations. Hopkins said a large amount of ductwork and lighting had to be replaced, along with the ceiling grid and tile. Block walls that cracked had to be reinforced. There were cracks at the top of the concrete wall where the roof had been lifted up and set back down.
The powerful storm left some mysteries as well.
“You hear people tell stories like this in tornadoes, but just to see it … we had chemistry rooms where the roof was blown off, but there were glass beakers sitting on tables that never moved,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said the school district has focused on “critical path” items to get the school open – largely roof and structural security jobs. But as that gets finished the district will move on to other things.
“We had a great deal of outside grounds damage to a lot of our facilities,” Hopkins said. “Right now we don’t have any lights in our parking lot because all of those poles were blown over. We lost the scoreboard at our football field, and a lot of fencing has to be replaced.”
Hopkins urged displaced families that need busing address modifications to reach out to the school district as soon as possible. He said the schools can also connect families in need with donated resources.
Amid tragedy though, Hopkins found a silver lining.
“We lost three days of school (in May), but you think, what if it would have happened in the middle of the spring, and you’d have had a building with no roof for the entire fourth quarter,” he said. “And none of these communities are dealing with (tornado-related) deaths. That’s just an unbelievable part of this whole story.”
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