GREENSBURG — Greensburg students will move this fall to a new $50 million complex that replaces the one destroyed in 2007, when a massive tornado steamrolled the south-central Kansas town and killed 13 people.
The new school was paid for with insurance payments, federal support and several partnerships, according to Darin Headrick, superintendent of Kiowa County Schools.
Since the tornado hit May 4, 2007, students have been making do with modular temporary classrooms. Teachers and administrators started moving into the new school Monday.
Staci Derstein, elementary and junior high principal for the new school, told the Hutchinson News that she appreciates the wide view of the Kansas sky that she has through a bank of windows in her office.
"I'll have sunshine and clouds and be able to watch the storms brewing," she said.
The U-shaped building will house preschool through high school students in a modern, high-tech space. Every classroom has natural light; recycled barn wood and acoustic board on the walls will soften sounds.
"I think it's going to help with learning because it will be quieter," Derstein said.
The building has open and airy preschool and kindergarten classes at one end of the wing and a long hall of elementary classrooms. Middle school students have their own space, and the high school is in a separate wing.
When school starts Aug. 19, the Greensburg district will bring in students from Mullinville and Haviland. Headrick expects enrollment to be at about 135 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Rebuilding was a huge hurdle for the staff and community. Most had lost their homes when the tornado hit the town of about 1,500 residents. More than a third of the town's residents moved away afterward.
Meanwhile, in the school's library, Pam Noll and Cindy Breeden unpacked about 14,000 books recently.
Breeden is coming to the Kiowa County school from Mullinville High School.
"After the tornado, all the books in the grade school were gone. There were no walls or ceiling," Noll said.
Many of the books they unpacked Wednesday were donated to the school from across the country after the tornado.
"There are a lot of caring people," Noll said.