Some Ala. schools reopen; funds promised for others

PLEASANT GROVE, Ala. —The roads leading to Pleasant Grove Middle School are lined with toppled trees. National Guard trucks are idled in the parking lot, and packages of bottled water rest on the concrete nearby, unmistakable reminders of the devastation wrought by the tornadoes.

But inside the building, students who returned after a turbulent, heavy-hearted week away found something of a sanctuary, greeting each other with shrieks, bear hugs and giddy jubilation typically associated with the first day of school.

Which, in a way, it was.

"I was happy because I thought they had died," Sandrea McAlpine, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, said of some of her friends she hadn't seen. "I talked to some of them, but I didn't know if everyone was OK."

Schools across hard-hit Jefferson County reopened Tuesday, yet elsewhere, students were not going back to class, either because their buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. House Speaker Mike Hubbard said schools were destroyed in at least six different school systems, and Alabama legislators responded by passing a resolution promising to provide the money needed to rebuild the schools.

The Alabama House and Senate passed a resolution promising that the Legislature would make sure that all needed funds would be provided to rebuild schools. The resolution goes to Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature.

It promises the state will provide whatever funds are needed to rebuild a school above whatever payments are made by insurance companies or federal assistance received.

The resolution says the state "will always be ready" to assist local school boards in rebuilding destroyed schools.

The storms killed 328 people in seven states, including 236 in Alabama alone.

Nurses and counselors were on hand to help students, and for the day at least, pre-algebra and grammar lessons were shelved in favor of candid reflections on how the tornadoes upended young lives.