School tornado damage could affect start date for fall

At least two local school buildings sustained severe damage in Monday night’s tornadoes, and it’s possible both districts could see a delayed start to the 2019-20 school year — for different reasons.

In Brookville, half of the high school wing’s roof blew off, leaving the entire length of that span — covering several classrooms — open to the elements.

Superintendent Tim Hopkins said he hopes the roof will be replaced by the planned Aug. 15 first day of school, but he admitted it’s too early to know for sure.

VIDEO: Smaller tornado seen up-close on school cameras

“We’re being told that we’re probably looking at a 10-week process for fabricating the new roof, then installation is on top of that,” Hopkins said. “Our hope would be that we’re on target, but it’s just a little bit early for me to know that yet.”

Northridge schools’ building damage is sad, and also a bit ironic. The Grafton Kennedy school building on Wagner Ford Road “is a complete loss,” according to Superintendent Dave Jackson.

But that school, which now has a caved-in roof and some collapsed walls, was slated for demolition this summer as part of Northridge’s move into a new K-12 campus.

That new school complex was not hit, and Jackson said the district is targeting a Sept. 16 start date for students — not because of the tornado, but because final construction and move-in issues at the new school will require a later start.

TROTWOOD: 59 homes destroyed, almost 500 damaged

“It doesn’t hurt us school-wise in the long term at all, thank God,” Jackson said. “It cost us the last three days of school. … But we are going to have graduation Saturday at our stadium (at 2 p.m.). I think that will be a really great time of celebration and unification, and a break from what has been a really hard week.”

School officials in Trotwood, Northmont, Milton-Union, Mad River and Huber Heights said their schools suffered no significant damage despite tornadoes in their area. Dayton Public Schools officials could not be reached Thursday about Charity Earley Girls Academy, their school set back off Shoup Mill Road. A large fallen tree had been blocking the narrow driveway to the school since early Tuesday morning.

Beavercreek Superintendent Paul Otten said there was damage to Shaw Elementary and the district’s central office/preschool complex, but he said it was “nothing overly significant,” citing some roofing and tree issues.

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Trotwood Superintendent Tyrone Olverson said miraculously, Westbrooke Village Elementary, a half-mile west of Salem Avenue, had only one minor roof issue that was quickly fixed.

“It seems like the tornado jumped right over the school, as houses in front and behind it were destroyed,” he said.

Vandalia-Butler, Brookville, Milton-Union and Northridge schools all canceled the final three days of the school year Tuesday through Thursday, and will not make those days up. That meant canceling exams at most high schools, although Brookville said students could arrange to take them if they wanted.

Smaller events such as end-of-school parties and field trips for younger students were canceled. And schools were figuring out how to get textbooks and computer devices back from the students now that the school year was abruptly over.

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Other school districts in the storms’ path — Dayton, Trotwood, Mad River, Beavercreek, Huber Heights and Northmont — had already finished school last week.

Brookville’s Hopkins said the weeks ahead will be full of work. HVAC lines have to be checked for leaks, ceiling ductwork and some school furniture has to be replaced, and some blockwork with minor cracks needs to be repaired. Wood beams that turned into flying projectiles during the tornado are lodged in some parts of the building and have to be removed.

“One of the first things we tried to do overnight right after the storm was take the computer towers out of the rooms so if we got rain, we wouldn’t lose them,” he said. “We have to look at how much damage there was to technology.”

But the main issue is the roof. Crews started work Thursday at installing a temporary board roof on the high school wing to protect the building from rain damage. That process will take multiple days.

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Hopkins is staying upbeat, pointing to student-athletes and their families who helped clean up debris. And Northridge’s Jackson is doing the same.

“It’s been incredible for our staff to be out door-to-door delivering water and food and gas and ice and whatever else people need,” Jackson said. “In the middle of a crisis, that’s been a rallying point for us, too. There’s good stuff happening out of really bad circumstances.”

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