JOPLIN, Mo. —
The Joplin School District opened its new term Wednesday — 87 days after being stunned by an EF-5 tornado — with no major hitches, officials said.
Some principals declared this year’s first day of school, even in an array of temporary locations, one of the smoothest ever.
At the 11th- and 12th-grade center at Northpark Mall, about 1,000 juniors and seniors received laptop computers courtesy of the district.
Quentin Anderson, a senior who was critically injured in the tornado and who lost both of his parents in the disaster, was the first student to receive one of the MacBook laptops presented by Gov. Jay Nixon. He said he has high hopes for his senior year and eventually plans pursue a doctorate in molecular microbiology.
“I hope to keep straight A’s, and, of course, everyone wants to graduate,” he said. “No one wants to be in high school for the rest of their life.”
Anderson said he didn’t have any doubts about Joplin schools starting on time.
“I knew they would have to move mountains for it, but I didn’t think it would be impossible,” he said. “It’s a lot better than the old place. I didn’t know what it would be like.”
Joplin High School Principal Kerry Sachetta, who will travel between the two high school campuses this year, said students will receive cyber-safety training at school, and that filters have been installed on the laptops to keep students off unwanted sites.
Many students were excited to see their friends and explore the new classrooms, and several experienced the typical back-to-school butterflies.
“I’m scared I’ll get lost or that I can’t find my classes,” said senior Taylor Haddad. “I feel like a freshman again, basically.
“The cafeteria is pretty awesome. This whole building is so innovative. The hallways and common areas are really great”
Because the 11th- and 12th-grade campus does not have a gymnasium, a fitness center has been created where students can exercise. Sachetta said athletes will train during first hour at the Memorial Education Center campus, where the freshmen and sophomores are attending classes.
Additional changes include food offerings, which Sachetta said will include more options via some mall vendors. As the year progresses, some students who meet certain criteria, such as a high grade-point average or high attendance, may receive the option of leaving campus for lunch, Sachetta said.
Chad Greer, an architect, said the designers wanted to create a unique floor plan for the temporary school at the mall. He works for CGA architects, which paired up with DLR Group for the project that converted a former big-box store space.
“What we wanted to do is give them a true test, an incubator for their future facility,” Greer said. “We have given them a variety of different spaces that they can use, areas for collaboration and classrooms that expand and open up.”