Dan Bewley, News On 6
JOPLIN, Missouri -- Students in Joplin return to school Wednesday, barely three months after a deadly tornado tore through their southwest Missouri city.
The twister killed 160 people and destroyed several of Joplin's school buildings. Some of the kids are returning after great personal loss.
It's a first day of school unlike any other. Juniors and seniors of Joplin Public Schools began the school year in their new home, a converted department store on the property of Northpark Mall.
"We don't know where we're going; we don't know where anything is in this building. Teachers are confused, but it's fun and exciting," said Joplin senior Clare Davis.
"We have all this new technology, all these cool architectural details."
Those details include murals and etchings of the schools' trademark eagle, smart boards, TV monitors, sliding panels to open a classroom and wide open places for students to gather.
"I'm really, really excited," said Brad White, senior. "I'm seeing all these kids come in and they're in awe cause it's totally different – totally new. It's awesome."
Ten Joplin school buildings were damaged or destroyed during the May 22 tornado, costing close to $150 million in damages. The district was sent scrambling to find places for its 7,700 students, but there was never any doubt that the school year would start on time.
"It's a renaissance for us; this is a rebirth," said teacher Janet Myers. "It's a rebirth of education."
And despite the newness and the cool gadgets, some of the students – especially the seniors – are a bit said. They were looking forward to spending their final year at the old Joplin High School.
"It's sad to not be able to have our senior night, and come in to the gym and have our real Eagle Alley which was like a huge meeting place," said senior Chloe Hadley.
"So it's a bittersweet return. I think it'll be a good first day though."
One thing's for certain in Joplin. Teachers, students and administrators all say this first day of school is a big step to help the community move forward.
"It's such a positive thing that the school is starting on time," said student Clare Davis. "It's just representative of how our community is not just going to sit down and die. We are progressive, and we're moving forward. This is the marker for us."