The rest of the school year for the South Central Calhoun High School in Lake City is uncertain following the tornado Sunday that tore the roof off the school.
Governor Terry Branstad toured the storm damage in Calhoun County Monday and got an update on the high school from Superintendent Jeff Kruse.
“This building is pretty much gonna be toast for the rest of year, we are not going to be able to utilize it because of the water damage — so everything has to come out of the building The high school is not going to be able to be used,” Kruse told the governor.
School was canceled for all classes Monday and today as the electricity was out. Kruse says they are trying to figure out if they can complete the rest of the year for the high school. “We’re trying to figure out if maybe by Thursday if I can get school going in the elementary and the middle school for sure — if there is something we can do for two or three days — and then we will still have to figure out a plan for the high school students,” Kruse says.” Whether they do need to come back to school or we are able to forgive their school, unless we can find some places (to hold classes). A lot of the materials will be boxed up governor, so we are not going to have our normal curriculum to be able to teach with.”
Branstad says the state will do what it can to help. “Well, it’s a pretty extraordinary circumstance, so hopefully the Department of Ed will work with you on that. I don’t want to speak for them obviously,” Branstad says.
The governor says the emergency warning systems had worked well and everyone reported having adequate time to seek shelter. And he credited school officials for taking quick action that prevented any injuries to the people in the high school for an awards ceremony at the time of the storm. “That was really well handled, I mean to have an emergency like that and you got everybody to a safe place and nobody was hurt. That’s a good thing,” Branstad says.
Superintendent Kruse says the district does have good insurance to cover the damages. Senior Hannah Corey was one of around 150 people inside the school when they learned of the storm. “They were doing the firemen’s scholarship and one of my friends thought they were like sound effects because we heard the sirens going — and all of a sudden someone said ‘you need to get into the basement now.’ So we all hurried and got down in there. Half the people were on one side and half on the other side,” Corey explains. They waited in the basement for the tornado to hit. “We didn’t really know what was going on, it was really quiet down there, and finally one of the dads said we’ve got two minutes and the tornado is going to hit the school,” Corey says. She was worried that her brother was at home alone.
A short time later they got a final warning before the storm hit. “He yelled ‘everybody down’ and we all got down on our hands and knees and covered our heads and the power went out. You could hear stuff hit, it sounded like it hailing but it was gravel hitting the school. And it was over so fast and like all of a sudden it was just dead quiet,” according to Corey. “Somebody said it was okay to go up and we came outside and there was insulation everywhere. We were in the auditorium and the roof was gone, and we didn’t even know it.”
Corey says she was able to go back home and found her brother safe. Both returned to the school to help cover computers and books with tarps. Corey says the reality hasn’t quite hit her that it’s her school that’s been hit, and even though classes were canceled no one stayed home, they all came out to help with the cleanup.
(Reporting by Jeff Blankman, KCIM, Carroll)