TUPELO – One week after a tornado significantly damaged their school building, Joyner Elementary students returned to school – most of them in that same building.
The Tupelo School District on Tuesday recognized those who helped make that possible.
“It is exciting to see all of the individuals from different departments in our district and areas of our community who came together to get Joyner back open,” Superintendent Gearl Loden said. “The city made opening up Joyner a priority.
“…It is exciting to see the students back in school.”
During its regular school board meeting, the district recognized a number of individuals who contributed to the quick restoration. Those included Joyner Elementary Principal Kim Foster, the school’s faculty and staff, its Parent Teacher Organization and representatives from other schools who volunteered in various ways to help colleagues.
Also recognized were Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton, Tupelo Chief Operating Officer Don Lewis and city department heads for their behind-the-scenes work during the recovery.
The district honored representatives from many of its own departments – security officers and school resource officers, maintenance, transportation, technology, food service, curriculum, Hancock Leadership Center, finance and central office – for a variety of roles they played during the challenging week.
Paul “Buzzy” Mize, senior vice president at Ross & Yerger insurance company in Tupelo, said he has never seen a school that suffered so much damage return to operations so quickly. Mize, who works with the district on its insurance policy, said that is a tribute to Loden, his staff and the individuals recognized.
“What happened there was really impressive,” Mize said. “It shows the strength of the district to be able to take such a lick like that and be able to respond so quickly. It was impressive, and it was important.”
The work to restore the school was a joint project of JBHM architects, Century Construction, Servpro and Graham roofing. First- and second-graders were able to return to Joyner on May 5, while kindergartners are finishing the year at Church Street School.
Joyner’s kindergarten wing suffered the heaviest damage and will be repaired during the summer.
Loden said it is exciting to see students again using Church Street School and noted the district has plans to house some pre-K students there in the future, if it is able to expand its early childhood program.