Smithville students will learn in portable classes this fall

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

SMITHVILLE – Smithville students will stay in their hometown when school begins on Aug. 4.
Forty-four portable classrooms will be placed on a county-owned plot of land near Industrial Street, about a mile-and-half from the former school campus.
That temporary school will serve as a home for Smithville’s roughly 600 kindergarten to 12th-grade students while the Monroe County School District rebuilds the school’s original campus, a process expected to take about 18 months.
That campus was severely damaged during the April 27 tornado that destroyed much of the town.
Students finished the final three weeks of school at Hatley and the Monroe County Advanced Learning Center, but Monroe School Superintendent Scott Cantrell said that it was important for them to begin the new school year in one place.
“It was imperative,” Cantrell said. “We could finish like that for three weeks, but we wanted folks from Smithville to feel like they are back in their hometown. We hope that will mean a lot to them.”
Smithville Principal Chad O’Brian agreed with the importance of staying in town.
“I think the biggest thing is restoring the normalcy and the consistency,” he said. “It will make a major statement to the community that we are here to stay, and we are planning on rebuilding this school.”
The temporary school will include a PE room, cafeteria, band hall, music room and two office facilities. The portable classrooms should be accessible to teachers the week of July 25, Cantrell said.
Meanwhile, the school’s football, baseball and softball teams will use their regular fields this year, with an emotional football home opener scheduled for Aug. 26 against Hatley. Arrangements are still being made for where the basketball team will play and practice.
Cantrell hopes that Smithville students will be able to return to their former campus next August, perhaps with some areas fenced off as construction is completed.
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.