Students in Henryville returned to classes on Tuesday, just five months after a tornado tore through the southern Indiana community, ripping roofs from buildings and scattering debris.
Since the tornado hit Henryville on March 2, school administrators and building contractors have been feverishly working to ensure that Henryville Jr. Sr. High School students would be able to start the 2012-2013 school year on time.
As school buses rolled up to the building and students walked up to the doors, they were greeted by teachers wearing shirts that read Back in the hive, a nod to the schools hornet mascot.
Belfor, a company that specializes in property restoration after disasters, said it normally would take two years to make the $55 million repairs.
"It was a massive coordination effort from the community and the local workforce. Belfor brought in several hundred people. We ran two shifts for the last couple of months, day and night, seven days a week. It has been a monumental effort on the part of everybody who has worked on this site, contractor Rob Robbins said.
The schools gym was destroyed in the tornado. Most of the main building was damaged, but remained intact. Belfor crews said its now structurally sound, RTV6s Julie Pursley reported.
Parents and students said they were thankful for the companys hard work.
You could just see everyone working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, student Ashytn Kaskie said.
"I saw (crews) working in snow, rain and heat. God bless you all. Youve given these kids so much just by being able to come back to their school. This is the only school my daughter and son (have ever) known. This is a blessing, one parent said.
Principal Troy Albert said he wants the first day of school to be a pivotal point in his students lives.
I hope (the first day) changes the attitudes, Albert said. If something happens to another community, we can reach out as a student body and faculty, and support those and realize what they are going to go through."
Teacher Tom Lee said he wanted to ease students back into academics.
Typically, the first week is not academically intense, so it's going to be more of a celebration. Getting to know each other is typically what we do. We are just going to make it fun and keep it light, Lee said.
The restoration costs were mostly covered by insurance and state funds, officials said.
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