The damage to Brookport Elementary School dominated much of the Massac Unit One board meeting held Nov. 25 as Massac Unit One Superintendent Bill Hatfield told board members the damage to the roof could be costly.
District architect Sheila Baysinger and an insurance representative had met at the school, looked at the damage and talked. Hatfield said the only question appears to be whether or not the damage has affected the decking.
According to Hatfield the night of the meeting, neither Baysinger nor the insurance representative had looked underneath the roof yet.
He did say the insurance company was good about wanting Baysinger to be there and the company has indicated it would go down on the roof as far as necessary in order to get the roof fixed.
In talking about the damage, Hatfield also explained that there were boards in the roof that looked as though they were nail gunned into the roof, while at the same time there was not even a window broken in the building.
While talking about the damage the building sustained, Hatfield called upon Brookport Elementary School Principal Debbie Christiansen to elaborate. She told the board that after the tornado had passed she inspected the building and found there were sprinkler heads that had fallen down in the south hallway that had lined up in a perfect row.
Christiansen told the board that once the children got back to school, the kindergarteners had a writing exercise to write about the things they are thankful for.
She told the board about a young girl who, along with her mother, grandmother and little sister hid underneath a culvert, had simply written that she was glad to be alive.
According to Christiansen, following the tornado, there were 36 students out of school on Nov. 20, 25 out on Nov. 21, 30 absent on Nov. 22 and fewer than 10 not in attendance on Nov. 25. She told the board the school has what is called a homeless grant, which still allows for those displaced students to attend Brookport Elementary.
She said there are currently three students who are living in Metropolis. Those students meet the bus at Massac Junior High School, where they are transported over to Brookport to school. She said some students are living with parents or guardians at hotels, while other families are staying with relatives.
Christiansen said there are about 26 students whose families lost their houses. She said the amount of support the students, families and community has received “just blows your mind.”
According to Christiansen, at St. Mary’s school in Paducah, some of the students get to be “principal for a day.” She had learned that one of the students who was going to be principal for a day wanted to allow students to pay $2 to wear pajamas to school, with the proceeds benefiting Brookport.
She said the Red Cross and 12 other agencies had set up in the elementary school’s gymnasium so the students ate in their classrooms and also had PE in their rooms.
Christiansen said the tornado is not something she wants to experience again, but told the board it has brought the town closer together. “It moves you to go through something like that,” she said.
Unit One Board Chair Donnie Koch told Christiansen: “There wasn’t anyone any better, who knew Brookport peoples’ needs as what you have.” He said he and the other board members knew Christiansen had the situation at the school well under control and knew that she would help,
The board asked if there were any needs and Christiansen said that tarps and plastic totes are two things that were still needed. She said there was a lot of clothing available at the old gym, Pellonia Place. She said that so many individuals and organizations have donated clothes.
She also spoke about the donation by Bob Evans Restaurant, which was hosting a Thanksgiving meal at the school on Thanksgiving Day for the students, staff and community. “So many things have been donated,” she said.
According to Christiansen, the school has set Friday Dec. 13 as its annual Christmas dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. and invited the board to attend if they could to talk to people. “Everybody wants to tell their story,” she said.
She also noted that many of the families who lost so much had no insurance and urged that it will be important to get these families back into some housing and as the seasons change, it will also be important to have more season-appropriate clothing available for people who may still be in need.
Christiansen said though, “Kids are resilient.” She also told the board that on Nov. 22 school children got to go in small groups to the old gym, where they were able to get coats if they did not have one and for clothing items.
When the board directed its attention to the new business, it re-approved a maintenance agreement for a project that would divide a classroom at Metropolis Elementary School. The project was submitted, but not approved and the district is now re-submitting the project for approval, which required the maintenance agreement to be re-approved.
The board also approved several revisions to board policies and received a new policy revision regarding teen dating violence at school and school activities. The board took no action on that policy but will have one month to review the changes in the policy, which reflect new state laws. Hatfield said the change in the policy would be incorporated into student handbooks next year.
In other business, the board was also informed by Hatfield that Massac Unit One School District had been reassigned by the Illinois State Board of Education to the Franklin-Williamson Regional Office of Education.