By John Hacker

Globe Staff Writer

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. - A state education official Tuesday toured the devastated school buildings in Carl Junction as he and local officials discussed the fate of the remainder of the 2002-03 school year.

Gary Keltner, regional administrator with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said he was in town to gather information and prepare a report for Commissioner D. Kent King, who will decide whether the district must finish the year. That decision may come as early as today.

Keltner toured the school buildings with Superintendent Larry Thomas and the individual building principals.

"I've never been through anything like this, so I really can't relate it to anything I've seen in the past," Keltner said. "It really depends on to what extent Carl Junction and the other affected districts can put together plans to hold school."

The destruction Keltner saw was severe.

Carl Junction High School was slightly damaged in the storm, but the four other school buildings sustained structural damage to roofs and walls. Shattered windows were common throughout the campus. A bus barn collapsed on as many as 17 school buses, damaging them. The football stadium, track, and baseball and softball fields were damaged as well.

Ceiling tiles were still falling Tuesday in one elementary building, complicating the work of teachers and administrators as they tried to salvage equipment, books and materials from classes and offices.

"If we get a lot of rain before we get everything covered, we'll be in bad shape," said Patty Hughes, secretary in the K-1 building. "We're covering stuff and salvaging stuff, and trying to take some stuff home, but we can't take everything home. We're doing what we can, though."

At the same time, cleanup and recovery work continued in the rest of city.

The Red Cross emergency shelter, which had operated Monday at Webb City High School, was moved Tuesday to Carl Junction High School.

Electric power was restored early Tuesday to the high school building.

Kobi Watford, director of the Southwest Missouri Chapter of the Red Cross, said cots for 80 people were being set up in the gymnasium for those displaced.

Watford said groceries, toiletries, trash bags, tarps and plastic sheeting were available for free for people working to rebuild.

Joe Barfield, city administrator, said people wanting to donate money to the rebuilding effort may contact Southwest Missouri Bank in Airport Drive, where a fund has been set up.

Watford said people interested in donating clothes, food or other items may call the Salvation Army, Crosslines Churches of Joplin or other groups.

Residential mail delivery in Carl Junction was restored Tuesday, but people with post office boxes will have to pick up their mail in Joplin for a few days.

The roof was blown off the Carl Junction post office, and operations have been moved to Joplin until repairs can be made.

Barfield said City Hall was opened and staffed on Tuesday, even though electricity and telephones were still out. He said technicians were hooking up a portable generator at City Hall, and that it was hoped that phone service to the building would be restored today.

Non-emergency telephones for the Carl Junction Police Department and Fire Department were restored Tuesday. The non-emergency phone number for police is 649-7070.

Electricity was being restored on the peripheries of the city.

City Councilwoman Pat Smith said power had been restored to the Schoolview subdivision south of West Well Street, and to the south ends of Roney and Cowgill streets as well as north of the damaged area on Roney Street.

On Tuesday afternoon, Barfield, along with Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface and other officials, met with two representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Frank Shores and Diana Reagan, both with FEMA, were in town to discuss federal assistance for repairing publicly owned buildings and infrastructure.

"I think for now in Jasper County, it looks like the big number for public-works damage will be in the city of Carl Junction," Shores said. "We're here to start gathering information and give our supervisors a number so they can have an idea of the extent of the damage in this area."

Shores said FEMA will reimburse the city for what it has been "out-of-pocket" related to relief and recovery efforts, as well as the costs of repairing city-owned buildings such as the heavily damaged police station.

Shores said FEMA officials assigned to help private individuals and businesses will likely be in Carl Junction today.

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