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Moore Public Schools: Highland East Junior High to Reopen in August

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Highland East Junior High was damaged with hundreds of kids inside. Now school leaders are sharing what that was like. Highland East Junior High was damaged with hundreds of kids inside. Now school leaders are sharing what that was like.
MOORE, Oklahoma -

The Moore Public School District is making plans for next year after three of its schools were hit by the tornado.

Highland East Junior High was damaged with hundreds of kids inside. Now school leaders are sharing what that was like. The gym took the biggest hit during the tornado last week. There were 30 students in the gym with their teacher, and fortunately, despite all this debris, everyone here was safe.

Last Monday at Highland East, parents started checking their kids out early by that afternoon. Around 2:30 p.m., many stayed to shelter with their kids. The tornado sirens went off in Moore, and Principal Kathy Knowles quickly got on the intercom.

"I said, ‘I need you to take cover immediately. We are out of time,'" Knowles said.

The lights went out, and the building shook. Cellphone video from inside the school shows what is was like. Approximately 600 kids, teachers, and many parents took cover until  the powerful EF-5 tornado moved out.

When it was over, Knowles remembers everything was quiet.

"I started hollering, ‘Is everybody OK?' And then I hear these voices, ‘We're OK' 'We're OK,'" Knowles says. "I had my radio with me, and I hear, ‘I've got kids that are trapped in the gym.'"

Complete Coverage: May 2013 Tornado Outbreak

Teachers and staff worked to clear the gym's doorway covered in debris, and everyone walked out safely. Since last week when so much of their community was destroyed, the district has been keeping in touch with students.

"We want to make sure they're alright, they have counseling. They have us if they need any help, so our teachers have volunteered their time to come in and start making those phone calls," Asst. Principal Jeni Dutton said.

Of course the gym will have to be rebuilt, but the district says it's going to work on the school throughout the summer to reopen August 1. The district says students' grades will be posted on its website after 4:00 p.m. Thursday, May 30.

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