Hundreds of Henryville elementary students returned to class Wednesday in a temporary space nearly three weeks after deadly storms heavily damaged their school.
Counselors were on hand to provide any needed comfort to nearly 700 kindergarten through sixth-grade students when they arrived at the Graceland Christian Academy in New Albany.
"I missed all my friends and stuff," said student Jacob Butts.
"I'm really excited," said third-grader Drew Lindley. "I was bored staying at home all of the time."
The West Clark Community Schools have rented space there for the temporary elementary school, and families had the opportunity to tour the space during an open house Tuesday.
West Clark Deputy Superintendent John Reed said he expects the day to be somewhat like a first day of school, but said there might be some lingering emotions from the storms that destroyed some students' homes and killed 13 southern Indiana residents, including one man outside Henryville.
Reed said teachers will give students time to talk and share their experiences.
"We are really emphasizing the emotional stability of our kids. We are very concerned about that," Reed said. "We will spend as much time as we need to. It could be several days of just letting students tell their stories, reuniting friendships and listening a lot to them."
Teachers said starting classes again will be a good step toward returning to normal.
"It feels like a school to me, and that's the thing about Henryville's community, you know, wherever these teachers are is going to be Henryville," said fourth-grade teacher Tom Lee.
Students did not take part in the statewide tornado drill
planned for Wednesday for fear emotions may be too fresh after the recent devastation, school officials said.
"I think that was a wise choice, especially for the little ones," said teacher Leann Lindley. "I was really concerned the fear it would put into them."
Buses had to drive an extra 15 miles to get to the temporary space, but school officials and parents said it's worth it.
"For Graceland just to open this up to us and say use it, I mean, it touches your heart and makes you cry," said parents and teacher's assistant Marie Butts.
"I cannot thank them enough for what they've done and how they've put the children first, and not the building that they've been working on," said parent Michelle Braunecker.
Middle and high school students are expected to head back to class April 2 at a vacant facility in Sellersburg.
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