Caruthersville School Remodels Emergency Safety Plan

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

CARUTHERSVILLE, MO -- When an F-3 tornado ripped through Southeast Missouri last April, more than half of the structures in the community of Caruthersville were damaged...including the town's high school.

The rebuilding effort has been slow, but steady.  Classes are scheduled to begin September 5th and when high school students return, tardy bells will be ringing from inside modular classrooms... but just how safe will students be if severe weather strikes again?

"One of the first things we started doing after the storm was to start evaluating what would have happened if we had been in school that day and we started making notes," said Superintendent Nicholas Thiele, "Certainly we've done some things wrong and we've done some things right and we are going to evaluate and reevaluate where we've come from."

As the Caruthersville School District counts down to its September 5th start, a lot of things are changing.  With the help of FEMA, the school is working to revamp its emergency safety plan.

"We know that we have building repair and rebuilding needs for at least two years so we've prepared to use our temporary buildings for that long and maybe a third," said Thiele.

When the decision was made to bring in the modular classrooms, administrators had to take into consideration just where to put them...and the fact that they are only feet away from the middle school isn't an accident.

"In the event of some bad weather, we wouldn't have had a place for those students to be evacuated to," commented Thiele.

As the district repairs it's middle and high school campuses, they've worked to make the facilities safer for students...replacing doors with glass window panes and scouting safe locations to take cover during emergencies.  And of course staying on top of weather coverage.

"We'll be very vigilant of any type of severe weather," said Thiele, "We will have something tuned to KAIT because you all honestly get those storms before we do."

Thiele expects enrollment to be down because of the tornado but an exact count won't be known until classes begin.