Tornado-damaged Joplin schools on target to open

Despite delays caused by the wet spring, three Joplin schools damaged or destroyed by the May 2011 tornado are on target to open as scheduled in December, and district officials are “cautiously optimistic” that the new high school will open in August 2014.

The wet spring caused the most problems with the new high school, which doesn’t yet have a roof, Superintendent C.J. Huff said.

“We feel good about the schedule right now, but we’re cautiously optimistic about the schedule at the high school at this point,” Huff told The Joplin Globe. “We do have a long ways to go, and a lot can happen between now and then.”

East Middle School, and Irving and Soaring Heights elementary schools are on target to be done in December, said Mike Johnson, director of construction for the school district.

Crews are also preparing for the construction of gymnasiums, which will double as safe rooms, at Eastmoreland, Stapleton, Cecil Floyd and McKinley elementary schools, as well as a safe room at Junge Field, the high school’s football stadium. Johnson said the pre-cast concrete components for the safe rooms are scheduled for delivery in about four months.

The safe rooms, which will be open to the public during inclement weather, are the first five to be built as part of a project that will put storm shelters in Joplin schools. Safe rooms at the remaining schools are projected to be in place by next spring.

“That’s our goal – to have as many of these ready as humanly possible for the next tornado season,” Johnson said.