The summer recess can be a hectic time for school administrators, as they ready facilities and staff members for the coming year.
But few district leaders have as big a challenge in the weeks ahead as Robert Romines, the new superintendent of the Moore (Okla.) school system.
When he assumed the top job at the beginning of the month from retiring superintendent Susan Pierce, Romines took leadership of a district where community members still are mourning the deaths of 24 people from a May 20 tornado that ripped a destructive path through the city. Seven of those killed were third-grade students at Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary School. Hundreds of other students were left without classrooms after Plaza Towers and another elementary, Briarwood, were destroyed in the storm.
Just as the Joplin (Mo.) district 225 miles to the northeast had to do two summers ago when a vicious storm struck that community, Moore district personnel have had to begin planning for the rebuilding of classrooms wiped out by a powerful tornado. Moore officials are preparing to replace Plaza Towers and Briarwood while hurrying to find suitable temporary space by Aug. 16 so students can begin classes on time.
The district has decided that Plaza Towers students will be housed at Central Junior High School, and Briarwood students will use space made available by the nearby Emmaus Baptist Church. Officials have decided that both Briarwood and Plaza Towers will be rebuilt where they once stood. District leaders are optimistic that new buildings will be ready to welcome students for the 2014-15 school year.
Highland East Junior High School sustained significant damage, but will be able to open for the beginning of the school year after the roof is repaired and water damage has been fixed. The school lost its gymnasium in the tornado, and that will be rebuilt during 2013-14.
The Moore district has received thousands of dollars in cash and other donations to help schools recover from the disaster and prepare for the coming school year. The district says monetary donations and gift cards can be sent to: Moore Public Schools Donation Center/Tornado Relief Fund at 500 S.E. 4th, Moore, OK, 73160. People also may donate funds online.
To find out what materials are most needed, e-mail the district.