Joplin Tornado Residents See Hope in School Rebuildings

Catholic schools have united together to offer donations to schools devastated by the recent Joplin tornado.

St. Gabriel the Archangel School in St. Louis, MO acted as a central “drop-off” point for all other schools to gather resources. The idea was instigated by Principal Ann Davis, who was reportedly cleaning at the end of the school year when she came across a reading series her school no longer used.

Davis contacted the Springfield diocesan School Office and was informed of the urgent need for supplies from schools in Joplin.

Soon all Catholic elementary schools were notified in the St. Louis Archdiocese to gather as many materials possible for donation.

As of this week more than 300 boxes have reportedly been collected from across the archdiocese in what has become a beautiful image of compassion.

The Joplin school system was left devastated last month when a tornado killed seven students, one teacher, and destroyed three school buildings, including the only public high school.

Local officials have resolutely gone about trying to rebuild the educational institutions, and will only have a few months to put everything in place for the fall term.

In particular, rebuilding Joplin High has become a central focus of the local community. Associated Press have reported how amidst the devastation of the school an anonymous person places duct tape to turn a sign missing all but two letters from “OP” into “’’HOPE.” That gesture has become a sign for the whole community to hold on to.

In Joplin, summer school has begun already, and almost twice the number of students have enrolled this year compared to 2010.

According to AP Irving Elementary School Principal Debbie Fort, whose school was one of those destroyed said: “These children don’t have a home to live in. Parents know they need to get a routine back. Their lives have been turned upside-down.”

Half of the 1,600 children enrolled will have to attend classes in an empty area of a box storage building. Others will use a vacant warehouse in an industrial park.

Following the tornado that killed more than 150 people and brought the community and its infrastructure to its knees, locals are trying their best to provide a haven for the children. Teacher Isaiah Basye told AP: “The kids are just relieved to be back at something peaceful. It gives them hope, to see that we’re not letting the tornado change us. We’re still here with open arms. This place is a haven.”

Plans are now underway not just to rebuild the high school, which serves more than 2,000 students, but to build a new state-of-the art educational establishment.

Now three weeks have passed since the tornado, and despite the obvious despair and anguish, a new sense of hope is emerging among the Joplin community. Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer said: “We need to let ourselves be free to dream.”