JOPLIN, Mo. —
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon gave the students of Soaring Heights Elementary School a challenge on Wednesday: Make the most of their new school as a place to learn.
“There’s something exciting about being the first group of students in a new school,” he said. “But it’s a responsibility, too. It’s a blank slate here. This school is just a building; the people that make it a real school are you.”
Nixon was on hand for a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the permanent opening of the new school. The ceremony came on the heels of similar dedications that have recently taken place at the new Irving Elementary School and East Middle School, wrapping up Superintendent C.J. Huff’s goal of getting students at those schools back into permanent buildings by January 2014.
Fourth- and fifth graders from Soaring Heights Elementary School sang The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school.
Nixon said Joplin and its schools will continue to be a “shining beacon” for the country and the world for having committed to recovery following the 2011 tornado.
“Today’s ribbon cutting marks yet another milestone in a remarkable recovery here in Joplin,” he said in a statement outside the ceremony. “Joplin public schools have become a shining example of what is possible when a community unites in a common purpose and commits to building a brighter future for the next generation.”
Huff called the dedication a “momentous occasion” for Joplin. He thanked the hundreds of people — design teams, architects, builders, parents, teachers, government agencies — who made the new schools possible, and said none of it would have mattered without the students.
“The work that’s gone on over the past two and a half years has been about you each and every day,” he told the Soaring Heights students, who filled the auditorium for the ceremony.
Principal Teresa Adams said students deserve a building that not only is safe and supports learning, but is also fun and child-friendly. Students, faculty and staff have been particularly impressed with their new school, she said.
“Since we opened, my day has been filled with things like, ‘Wow’ and ‘amazing,’” she said. “I keep hearing these even three weeks into the semester.”
The combined Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center are slated to open in August, replacing separate buildings that were destroyed on May 22, 2011.