Another milestone: Joplin schools open - Word&Way

Another milestone: Joplin schools open

Joplin public school students reported for class on Aug. 17 — right on schedule.

That was impressive considering the tornado that plowed through the heart of the southwestern Missouri community on May 22. By one account, the 200 mile-per-hour winds that killed 160 people and destroyed thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses damaged 10 school buildings and completely destroyed four others.

Immediately after the tornado struck, Joplin School Superintendent C.J. Huff pledged that fewer than 90 days later the school year would begin on time. Administrators worked hard to develop a successful strategy to make it happen.

High school students are meeting in a 90,000-square-foot space transformed into classrooms at the local mall, while other students in the district are meeting in a previously vacant school, a former Missouri Department of Transportation building and various other temporary locations, including the Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) campus.

Neither students nor teachers lacked supplies to start the school year.

Various churches, civic and volunteer groups from across Missouri and the nation provided school supplies in bulk. For instance, there apparently was no shortage of backpacks for Joplin students as they reported for class.

Missouri state government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contributed $30 million to the district's recovery and rebuilding efforts.

The embassy of the United Arab Emirates donated $500,000 toward the purchase of laptops for the Joplin district's 2,200 high school students and pledged to match donations from other donors up to $500,000.

Joplin East Middle School Communications Arts Teacher Randy Turner blogged that hundreds of well-wishers, carrying signs and accompanied by a band, applauded as students and teachers walked across the campus of Missouri Southern State University to a classroom on campus.

The first day of school was a milestone for Joplin and signaled a return to normalcy, albeit a revised and flexible normalcy covered thoroughly by local and national news media.

Good for Joplin and everyone who had a part in getting young people back into school less than 90 days after the tornado touched down. This kind of success is something everyone can cheer.

It is a good reminder that most school districts, wherever they are, benefit from locals who have a heart for students and the quality of their education. Most districts have students who could benefit from being equipped with educational supplies.

And most teachers could use an appreciative word just about any time one is voiced.