Almost Back to Normal: School Year Starts in Marmaduke

August 21, 2006 - Posted at 5:51 p.m. CDT

MARMADUKE, AR -- Students returned to their classrooms across Region 8 on Monday and the day marks a new beginning for students and teachers in one district. It's hard to believe that less than five months after a tornado severely damaged the Marmaduke School things are close to normal.

"It's a sense of relief that we have come this far in such a short amount of time," said Superintendent Debbie Smith, "I had no idea we would be able to get this many students back into this building this quickly."

Despite the fact that parts of the school suffered roof and structural damage only about 100 students are beginning the year in modular classrooms. The rest of the student body started the semester in a renovated building.

"The best kids come from Marmaduke and we want to give them the best and that is what we believe we are doing now," said Smith.

The students in the elementary buildings are also enjoying new desks, playground equipment and freshly painted walls.

"There is tremendous excitement and we have done some upgrading as well. Some upgrading that the kids don't recognized but some of the adults would recognize," said Smith.

While there is a new look to the halls of the Marmaduke School District, one thing is back to normal.  All of the students, with exception to the 5th and 6th graders are back in their original rooms. And progress is moving quickly...the school district expects in the next month or so, those students will be out of the mobile classrooms.

"Everyone should be back in their original location by the first of October," said Smith.

In addition, the school gymnasium should be good to go in the next couple of weeks once the roof is finished. According to Smith the district is now stronger than ever.

"Even though the tornado was so devastating, rebuilding can occur and better things can come out of such devastation," said Smith.

It's taken long hours over the summer to get the school where it is now, but to the staff it has been all worth it. Last year the Marmaduke School District had around 750 students, that number down this year to 738 students.