Cleanup continues after November tornado


Cleanup continues around several Indiana counties damaged from the November 17, 2013 tornado.

Two schools in the Tippecanoe School Corporation were heavily damaged, which forced students to miss several days of class.

Much of Mintonye Elementary School has been gutted, as crews continue their work to reinforce some of the walls. Most classrooms are down to the bare bones and will receive new ceilings and flooring. Construction crews are also replacing the roof after the twister left several holes.

While workers believe the school will be done and ready in time for August’s return to school, the same can’t be said for Southwestern Middle School which houses 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. Sixth grade students have been housed at First Assembly Community Ministries, while 7th and 8th graders have been added to Wea Ridge Middle School.

“With the tornado, it has kind of spread us apart,” said 8th grade student Olivia Pearson.

Two storm damaged schools remain closed with students spread out.

“We don't get to see each other that much,” said 6th grade student Rowen Farrell.

But Thursday brought them back together.

“You can feel the energy in the room," Pearson said. "It's pretty great."

Along with the reunion came a surprise $25,000 from Scott Brand to Southwestern Middle School. The surprise received cheers and a standing ovation.

“It makes your heart a little warmer,” said 7th grade student Tyler Brubaker.

The money goes to repairing athletic fields and the heavily damaged gym.

“I thought about my own kids and I wish we could have given more actually,” said Jared Mackrory with Scott Brand who came from Wisconsin for the surprise donation.

The destruction and the donation are teaching students a lesson that stretches beyond these four walls.

“I think it has helped us in a way by showing us the responsibilities throughout life you have a few up and down to have to get through it,” Farrell said.

“Always be determined to push through no matter what situation you're at stay positive,” Brubaker said.

Administrators say they're learning to push their limits, too.

“Every day seems to be like we're still planning for the future but making sure every day happens,” said Southwestern Principal Karen Smith.

Leaders wait to hear back from the state before moving forward with repairs at the middle school. It will likely be 2015 before the school is able to reopen.

While students are expected to be able to return to Mintonye Elementary, middle school students will be divided again at least during the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Sixth grade students will head to Wea Ridge Elementary, while 7th and 8th graders will again be housed at Wea Ridge Middle School.