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March 2012 tornado coverage

April 3, 2012

Home is where the heart is: Henryville High students back in class

SCOTTSBURG — It’s not their school exactly, but fanfare from volunteers, welcome signs by Scott County students and black and gold balloons made it feel a little more like home.

Henryville High School’s students went to class for the first time in nearly a month at their temporary site — the Mid-America Science Park in Scottsburg on Monday.

Emily Horine, a senior and student council president at Henryville, said though she’s about to start the routine of classes, homework and tests again, she’s looking forward to it.

“Since the tornadoes, life’s a little hectic,” Horine said. “I’m looking forward to getting back to our new normal, as we call it.”

Principal Troy Albert said he doesn’t expect everything to start off smoothly, but he’s just glad it’s starting off at all.

“It’s a celebration,” Albert said. “It’s going to be controlled chaos, but we’ll have the kids together and the staff, too. It’s just going to be fun.”

John Reed, assistant superintendent for West Clark Community Schools, said the district put a lot of work into getting the facility ready for students, including partitioning off walls, installing doors and laying carpet. He said the facility serves as a business incubator and training center for adults.

But he said some of the built-in resources at the facility would be a big help to students, especially since they’ve been granted free access to an online virtual library, the SIRS Knowledge Source.

“The technology here is fantastic,” Reed said. “The infrastructure is already here. It’s more than we’ll probably use, but with all the testing we’ve got to do, the bandwidth will come in handy.”

Reed said he’s not sure students will have to take the ISTEP+ exams. He said he’s not sure if it’s too late to seek a waiver from the state, but it’s an option he’s still considering.

“We’re not going to worry about it,” Reed said. “We’re just going to get them in, get them back and make sure they’re emotionally ready to get into their academics. We’ll evaluate that and work on those decisions.”

And to do that, he said crisis counselors on loan from Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky will be on-site for as long as they’re needed for students to talk to if they want.

He said the elementary students hadn’t really used the counseling services available to them, but middle and high schoolers might be more apt to seek out those services.

“I think being at a more mature level, they have a better grasp of what has happened,” Reed said. “It’s a long road to recovery and we’re going to help with everything that comes with that.”

But as students crowded into their new home away from home, Scottsburg community members and volunteers tried to make them feel welcome.

Bill Graham, mayor of Scottsburg, said he was glad they were able to offer up the Mid-America Science Park as a temporary site for the high schoolers.

He said he worked with West Clark and Tony Bennett, state superintendent of public instruction, to help the district find somewhere to go.

“We’re very proud that the students came to school here,” Graham said. “We hope they feel at home and keep their spirits high.”

Lunches from Scott County District 2 were delivered to students.

Monty Schneider, superintendent for West Clark, said there still wasn’t an estimate on the damage to Henryville High School from the structural analysis performed by Belfor. He said an independent company has been hired to review the analysis and should have a complete picture together by the end of the week.

Graham said he’s been impressed with what’s been done at Henryville so far, though.

“The work Belfor has done is amazing,” Graham said. “It’s gone from a disaster area to a construction site in a very short amount of time.”

Horine said students in different clubs have been going to meetings and friends have kept in touch through Facebook and other social media, but she’s glad to be back in class with them.

“It’s hard not being in our home school, but I’m glad we’re back together,” Horine said. “It would have been really hard if the students were split up.”

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