Tushka Schools In Session After Deadly Tornado

Thursday, September 1st 2011, 3:01 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

TUSHKA, Oklahoma -- An Oklahoma community hit hard by a deadly tornado this past spring is on the road to recovery. It's been a little more than four months since a tornado hit Tushka in Atoka County.

There are still plenty of signs of the power of April 14th's tornado. But there is also a powerful symbol of the community's ability to overcome the devastation: school is in session.

The Tushka School District started the school year on schedule in temporary buildings.

"This right here, this is our elementary building," said Matt Simpson, Tushka High School principal.

"This is our cafeteria in the center. We centered it, kind of like our old campus was, and then high school on the north end."

Considering what happened to Tushka's school last spring, creating a new campus from scratch is quite an accomplishment.

An EF-3 tornado killed two people, destroyed homes and leveled the school. In moments, the school district lost 90 percent of its classrooms, and the town lost a large part of its identity.

"If you were here two months ago, this is so much of an improvement," Simpson said.

It took two months of demolition and debris removal, and two more months of assembling temporary buildings. The last desks were put in place the Friday before the first day of school on a Monday.

"We just took it a day at a time. We knew we had a lot to do, so we started with step one and go from there," High School Principal Matt Simpson said.

Recovery wouldn't have happened without school employees rolling up their sleeves.

"We feel like - the situation that we have been dealt with - we work with it, and it's going to be a good year," said fifth grade teacher Deneice Hill.

"Everyone just pitched in and did their part, and then some, and got it ready," Simpson said.

There is still work yet to do in the community, but there is steady progress on the road to recovery.

Ground will be broken on a new school this winter. It will be ready for students for the 2013 school year.

Crews were able to salvage some of the bricks from Tushka's school. They cleaned them up and used them in the restoration of the school's sports complex which was also damaged by the tornado.