Back home: Students reunite in Smithville

SMITHVILLE – This town came a little closer to getting back to normal on Monday morning as teachers and students arrived for the first day of school on the new temporary modular building campus.
“We are excited that our Smithville students are back to school in the town of Smithville,” said Monroe County Superintendent of Education Scott Cantrell. “Even though this is a temporary setting, and an extremely nice one I might add, we feel it will help to establish a sense of normalcy and daily routine for our students and their families.”
Monday was the first time school was held in Smithville since the April 27 EF-5 tornado ripped through town and destroyed much of the school’s campus. The school’s roughly 600 students finished the year on different campuses.
While the district rebuilds Smithville’s school, a 19-acre plot of county-owned land near Industrial Street will serve as a temporary campus with 42 portable classrooms.
Because that new campus was not ready in time, students spent the first two weeks of the school year in alternate locations. Lower elementary students went to a church in Amory, and upper elementary students were at the Monroe County Advanced Learning Center in Becker.
Monday was the first day they were all back together in Smithville.
Signs were placed around the temporary campus and in town saying, “Welcome Back.” Teachers and school staff were on hand to welcome the students as they arrived by bus and car. There were the usual questions of where to go, and students were gathered in the walkways chatting. Many lined up in the cafeteria for breakfast before the classes began.
“It was a major accomplishment to get everybody back in Smithville,” said Smithville High Principal Chad O’Brian. “We want to restore normalcy to Smithville in a K-12 campus again. We are pretty excited about having school here.”
O’Brian said the only obstacle he saw would be getting people used to the flow of traffic coming into campus.
Landon Carter said he was glad to be back home to finish out his senior year.
“I don’t mind the modular units,” he said. “They seem very homey.”
Biology teacher Darlene Rutledge said it felt good to be back together. She said it would take some time to get settled in.
“A lot of people spent a lot of extra hours here getting everything ready,” Rutledge said. “It’s worth it.”

Alice Ortiz | Monroe Journal

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