(Changes school openings due to weather)
By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. Jan 5 Three new schools will
open in Joplin, Missouri, this week, the latest step in the
town's recovery from a devastating 2011 tornado that killed 161
people and destroyed 8,000 buildings.
The tornado that hit Joplin on May 22, 2011, was the single
deadliest in the United States since records were first kept in
1950, according to federal agencies that track storm impacts.
"Milestones are important in the road to recovery and this
certainly is a big one for us," said C.J. Huff, superintendent
of Joplin schools. "We have worked hard to get to this point."
About 1,450 students, who have been attending classes in
temporary buildings since the storm, will move to two new
elementary schools - Irving Elementary and Soaring Heights
Elementary - as well as to East Middle School, Huff said. The
openings were due on Monday, but all Joplin schools will be
closed due to cold weather.
Joplin's new high school will open next fall to replace the
school demolished in the tornado. The students are now in a
former store adjacent to a shopping mall.
Five schools were destroyed and four others were damaged by
the tornado, according to school officials.
All of Joplin's schools have been outfitted with safe rooms,
where students and staff can take refuge in case of a tornado,
"We said early on that we were going to build back bigger
and better than before the storm, and the new schools are
example of that," Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr said.
Rohr said 90 percent of the 7,500 homes and 500 commercial
buildings destroyed in the tornado have been replaced. The three
new schools cost $65 million, and were funded mostly through
insurance and a bond issue voters approved in April 2012.
Seven students and a staff member of the school district
were among those who died after the tornado struck on a Sunday
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Edith Honan and Jeffrey