SCOTTSBURG, IN (WAVE) - More than one month since the EF-4 tornado destroyed their school, the kids of Henryville Junior-Senior High School are finally back to class. The students were welcomed Monday morning to the place that will be their new school, at least for the rest of this school year.
The ride on the school bus turned into a parade for the students of Henryville Junior-Senior High School – fit with a police escort and a giant American flag. Once off the bus, the pomp and circumstance continued with signs, balloons and welcome cheers from the people of Scott County.
"It's awesome," said Vera Dieterlen, an instructional assistant at the school who is also the mother of a freshman student. "It means so much to know that people have been thinking about us and praying for us and giving us all their best wishes. It means a great deal."
Relying on the generosity of others is about all the people of Henryville have after the EF-4 tornado destroyed their town and their school. It's taken about month to get their new donated site, the Mid-America Science Park in Scottsburg which is a building typically used to help small businesses, ready for the students.
"I think it's going to be better than anyone ever expected," said Troy Albert, Henryville principal. "I think everyone expected it would just be a big area, but it's really a nice facility and it's going to be a nice place to have school."
Also unlike a typical day at school, the majority of kids did not walk in with books or bags. Because so many lost so much everyone is getting a new backpack and new supplies to get them through the rest of the school year - all donated. But going back to class is about so much more than just learning for these students.
"I'm glad to be back to school to see all my friends," said Travis Dieterlen.
Day one at the new, temporary location one county north will likely mean more storytelling about the storm and the weeks that have followed than anything else.
"Probably won't get much work done," Vera Dieterlen said, "but that's okay."
It's okay because having everyone safe and together again is really what matters now.
As for the missed days, West Clark Assistant Superintendent Dr. John Reed said they plan to appeal to the state so they don't have to make up the days. But Reed said they are waiting to see how the kids are doing emotionally before doing that.
Reed also said demolition is complete on the old school and construction is set to begin. School officials were originally hoping to have that building ready to reopen by September 1, but say they could move that date up to August 1. The school calendar for the 2012-13 is not complete, but Reed they typically start school mid-August.