Henryville schools begin recovery process
Friday's tornadoes in southern Indiana severely damaged Henryville High School, Middle School, and Elementary School. Now, a restoration company is working with the school district and its insurance company to get the facility classroom-ready once again.
Eyewitness News toured the damaged school Wednesday to get an close look at the destruction and the work to repair it.
At first glance, Henryville schools don't seem salvageable. There are massive holes in the high school. One of three gyms is completely exposed to the elements.
Although flags hang from the rafters, and the basketball hoops are somehow still intact, a view from above shows the huge amount of debris that covers the court.
It's damage all caused by deadly tornadoes.
Belfor Restoration, based in Birmingham, Michigan, with offices across the country, is in charge of fixing all of it
Belfor's Rob Robbins says the company is adept at handling natural disasters.
"After 21 years of dealing with this, what we saw is exactly what we expected to see," Robbins said.
Robbins, who hasn't missed a single hurricane since Andrew in 19, says despite the visible damage, this isn't that bad.
"From a structural standpoint, which is our biggest concern. The rest of it's just brick and masonry. There's one steel beam, at this outer edge of the wall that needs to be replaced. The rest of the steel at this point appears to be structurally intact," he said.
In fact, structural engineers believe 70% of the 221,000-square-foot facility can be repaired without starting from scratch.
Now a crew of 100 engineers and electricians are digging through the debris and saving what they can.
Much of the salvaged materials will be sent to two temporary locations, where the school board will hold classes this spring.
Eventually, up to 500 people will be working to restore Henryville schools 24-7.
"We're stabilizing the structure, making sure that it's safe so that people going in and out of the building to retrieve these contents won't get hurt," Robbins said.
Another thing they're working to fix is all the hail damage. You can really tell how it pummeled the school and the community by looking at the ground. Pock marks that pepper the grass are actually from hail stones, most big enough to fit your fist.
Crews say this project is more than a construction project.
It's about creating Henryville's future and getting kids, touched by tragedy, back to being kids.
"It does feel pretty good. It'll feel pretty good when we hand em the keys and say it's all yours," Robbins said.
Belfor expects to have all the exterior cleanup complete by the end of the week.
Robbins says their plan is to have the school reconstructed and move-in ready by the start of next school year.