Teachers moving back into Tippecanoe County school damaged by tornado

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Eight months after the November 2013 tornado that blew through Tippecanoe County, it seems like a whole new world at Mintonye Elementary.

Crews are moving what seems like a world of boxes and furniture from storage into the building.

"When you first see it, it's a little overwhelming, but it's one box at a time," said fourth grade teacher Amanda Titlow.

She's getting her first chance as a full-time teacher inside a building that's getting a second chance.

The building passed safety inspections, which allowed teachers to move in Monday. There's a lot of unpacking to do all over the building, but in another wing, the last rounds of construction are wrapping up.

"Right now, they're putting carpet down in my room, so we are in the final phase and this is the last step before I can move into my classroom," said fourth grade teacher Ryan Habben.

Habben will begin his fifth year teaching fourth grade at the school. As he waits to move in, he helps his fellow teachers.
He still remembers the Sunday in November that changed this school forever.

"When the tornado sirens went off, I was actually on my way to school to prepare things for the next week so I turned around and went home. It was very scary for all of us to see our building damaged," Habben said.

The school's roof, ceiling, lights, and carpet have all been replaced. While the design hasn't changed, the building's 21 classrooms seem like new.

"I've really been waiting to get in here and put my own spin on things," Titlow said.

And after the spin of destruction, it's the calm before the storm of back to school.

"It'll be so much better to see it with children in it," Habben said.

Those 450 students will fill the halls starting August 13th.

As long as things stay on schedule, Principal Robb Skaggs said the only work left to be done when doors open for students should be aesthetic items that weren't a priority.

"It's just going to be little things that we want to finish up and take care of that aren't really going to make a difference with the kids' instruction or, of course, their safety," he said.

Another school in that district, Southwestern Middle School, will not be ready by that time. It suffered more damage and will have parts of it demolished.

It should be done by the spring of next year. Students who attend Southwestern will be housed at other schools for this school year.