Greensburg students will move into new, green school in fall

GREENSBURG — This fall, Greensburg students and teachers who have been using trailers since a tornado destroyed their town in 2007 will move into a new, environmentally friendly school.

School superintendent Darin Headrick said the $49.4 million school is 80 percent finished and he expects the district to officially take control of it on Aug. 5.

The tornado destroyed almost the entire town, including every school. When rebuilding began, district leaders decided to build one school for preschool through 12th grade, where students could share a gymnasium, library and cafeteria.

The construction is 98 percent paid for, using funding from private donors, federal and state support and insurance. Headrick said he hopes the district will not have to take on any debt to pay the remaining 2 percent.

One wing of the school will house preschool, elementary and middle school students. Another wing will house the high school. The two wings are connected by a shared library and media center. And one story of the high school wing includes two gyms and a cafeteria.

Greensburg officials have drawn national attention for their efforts to rebuild the town in environmentally friendly ways — and the new school continues that effort.

During a recent tour of the school by a reporter from the Hutchinson News, Headrick pointed out several green details built into the school. That includes lockers made of recycled plastic, some classrooms that mostly will use natural light and a system to recycle stormwater.

The construction also used reclaimed and recycled materials, and the building will use geothermal heating and cooling and on-demand water heaters.

The landscaping and sports fields will be irrigated with captured rainwater, and the building will be partially powered by a wind turbine. During power outages, it will use a hydrogen fuel backup generation system.

In case the town is threatened by another severe storm, the school includes a "safe room," which can hold several hundred people.