Borrowed buses will carry Henryville students back to school
HENRYVILLE - The West Clark Community school district is trying to decide how to get 1,200 students in storm-ravaged Henryville back in class.
At Thursday night's school board meeting, board members announced where kids will go to school temporarily.
They are estimating when classes will begin and they have a plan on how to get them there.
After six days of seeing destruction, stuck at her damaged home, nine-year-old Katelin Burton is ready to go back to school. "I go out here and you just look and everything's destroyed," the Henryville 4th grader said. "I usually never wanna go to school, but I want to go to school now."
But she and hundreds of other Henryville students can't go to the schools in their town. The outside of the buildings are ravaged and inside, debris litters what used to be hallways and classrooms.
The restoration company, hired by the district's insurance company, says tornado damage won't be repaired for months and the schools won't reopen until the start of next school year.
Classes were already canceled this week and now they've been canceled next week as well. West Clark Community's Superintendent, Monty Schneider, announced that Thursday night, after saying a prayer for the families in Henryville.
But soon, kids will be learning again. In a gym packed with parents, school leaders announced a plan to relocate Henryville's students for the rest of this school year.
Elementary kids will attend school 15 miles away in New Albany, at the former Graceland Christian School.
Junior and Senior High students will attend classes about 10 miles away in Scottsburg, at the newly-built Mid-America Business Park.
Schneider said the board came to that decision after looking at several options in several cities.
He said these two buildings were the best size and best fit for Henryville's needs.
While there's no firm school start date yet, they hope to begin classes right before or after spring break. School leaders still have to get the temporary facilities classroom-ready before bringing students in.
"It's going be different than the school. But they're going to take care of us and we're not looking at something permanent. We're looking for something to finish the last weeks of this school year," Schneider told Henryville parents.
"We really didn't want to split students at too many locations. It's what they know. It's their routine. It's their friends it's their families. It's extremely important," said Assistant Superintendent Dr. John Reed.
"We're going to have to address the emotional issues first. Get the kids settled down then we'll figure out where to go from there," said Reed
But what about getting students to school? Many buses were mangled in the storm. Administrators say that won't be a problem because other districts are loaning them buses for transportation.
Then there's also the issue of where to pick up students. Many Henryville families don't have homes or they're staying with relatives, so the normal bus stops aren't even there anymore.
"Right now what we have to concentrate on is finding where the kids are at," Reed said. "The teachers are contacting kids to see where they are then we'll set up new routes for bussing."
Reed said it's not clear yet if the school year will be extended into the summer. Students are also missing ISTEP testing right now.
Schneider told parents their children will not be tested immediately upon their return to class. He said teachers will assess kids' readiness and state of mind first, and if it's determined they're not ready for testing, or that their results wouldn't fairly depict their learning comprehension, the district may ask the state to waive ISTEP this year.
Parents, many of them wearing Henryville sweatshirts to the meeting, said they were pleased with the plan for their children.
"It's ok. It's fine. I just want the kids back in school," said parent Juli Sherrill.
"It'll work out. Kids are resilient. They'll be able to handle it," added her husband, Robert.
Although they'll be learning in a temporary building, students say the pride of Henryville is permanent, something even a tornado can't destroy.
"Because we're still gonna be the Hornets, no matter what happens," Burton said.