By Kelsey Ryan
Plans for the rebuilding of the schools Joplin lost in the 2011 tornado received more raves Tuesday night from district officials.
“They’ve all done a wonderful job,” board president Randy Steele said in an interview after a Board of Education meeting. “Every time we see new drawings, it’s so exciting to know our kids are about to step into 21st century schools. This is a process that’s going to take time.”
The board heard updates from the architects for the East Middle School and Elementary 2 campus, Irving Elementary School and the combined Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center.
Chad Greer, with Corner Greer and Associates, met recently with Joplin High students about their legacy at the new school. Greer told the board that students expressed interest in having the rose garden at the new school with five concrete benches for each high school class affected by the tornado, from 2011 to 2015. They want the benches to have messages from each class.
Architects for the other sites said that they will have packages ready for the seeking of bids in the next month.
Superintendent C.J. Huff told the board that he has received phone calls from people asking about whether the current schools could be used as public shelters this storm season. He said residents should other plans in the event of a storm until the schools have the community storm shelters built in the next year or so.
The district plans to have ceremonial groundbreakings at the schools on May 22, the anniversary of the 2011 tornado. The schedule for the day is not complete, but district officials say they will likely have a ceremony where Mercy Health Systems hands over the deed for the property the new Irving Elementary will be built on in the morning.
A ceremonial groundbreaking will likely be held in the late morning or early afternoon at the East Middle School campus. District officials may plan to stop at the site of Joplin High School during the Walk of Unity that’s being planned by Joplin city government.
Huff said in an interview that he and other administrators know that May 22 of this year will be an emotional day for Joplinites.
“Everybody is in a different place,” Huff said. “Those days will bring a lot of celebration and a lot of reflection. As we reflect on the past, we have to think about the future. It’s just another step in the healing process.”
In the earlier work session, the board reviewed the new schools before going into closed session to talk about personnel and legal matters.
Huff said the board took a vote in closed session, but was withholding the outcome for the time being. The district was sued earlier this month by an out-of-state contractors hired to demolish Joplin High School. The contractor alleges the company was not given progress payments by the district for work on the site. Huff said school officials hope to come to a resolution sooner rather than later.
Board member Ashley Micklethwaite was given a plaque of appreciation by the board for her service. Micklethwaite recently announced she will be leaving Joplin for a new position with Mercy Health Center in St. Louis. The board will now accept letters of application for an appointment to fill the vacancy.
The board was scheduled to meet on May 22, but that session has been moved to May 29. The regular meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the district’s administration building, 3901 E. 32nd St.