Tuesday, April 08, 2008

TOP STORY > > Students will go to

Leader senior staff writer

Against all odds, underclassmen will return to classes Thursday at the same Sylvan Hills High School building torn asunder by last week’s storms, according to James Warren, executive director for support services for the Pulaski County Special School District.

That’s weeks earlier than expected.

The seniors, meanwhile, will attend classes at the Harmon Recreation Center, Warren said.

The latest estimate places storm damage to the school and the athletic field at $750,000, Warren said, including an all-new electrical system for the athletic field.

Until Tuesday morning, the district had expected to press Woody’s Sherwood Forest and the North Little Rock Forest Assembly of God into service as makeshift classroom buildings to accommodate the 920 students.

But at 10 a.m., Superintendent James Sharpe and senior administrators including Beverly Ruthven, Bill Barnes and Warren met with High School Principal Danny Epps, his assistant principals Gene Adams and Beverlyn Marmon, formulated a plan to allow the lower three grades to return to the building Thursday.

Preparing the building, which is still without the use of seven classrooms and its athletic facilities, required long hours and “total cooperation,” Warren said.

People were working under lights, competing tradesmen were working together to restore services and make repairs and all were working at once, Warren said.

“We have temporary roofs over the entire building. Even the auditorium is in the dry,” he said.

Some classes will double up and classes will be held in the cafeteria, too, he said.

Thirty-three rain-soaked computers are now junk, but the district will replace those.

The district will save a lot of money by avoiding the costs of transporting students to three new buildings, feeding them there, moving materials and other costs.

Meanwhile, there is no soccer or track practice and the school play will be moved to the North Pulaski High School auditorium, he said.

Warren said it was possible that the seniors would be able to return to the building in about a month. He added that he didn’t know what the ruling would be on make-up days for the four days of missed school.

Dr. Tony Thurman, Cabot school superintendent, said the district suffered minimal damage to its schools. “No classes have been disrupted by storm damage,” he said Tuesday.

“District construction, maintenance and custodial crews worked on Friday to repair damage and remove debris that may have caused problems for students on Monday. They still have minor areas to repair and replace, but they do not cause safety or logistical concerns for faculty, staff or students,” he added.

The National Weather Service released a survey on Sunday of a tornado that went from North Little Rock into Sherwood and damaged numerous structures at a cost of millions of dollars. Among the casualties was a tornado siren.

The twister, one of 10 to rip through central Arkansas on Thursday night, rated EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale of tornado severity, meaning it had winds of 111 to 135 mph.

The weather service said the tornado began near the intersection of Camp Robinson Road and Donovan Briley Boulevard. It passed through the southeast corner of Camp Robinson and then moved on to the North Little Rock airport, where it damaged numerous aircraft.

The tornado also struck in Sherwood, Gravel Ridge and north Pulaski County. On the way, it damaged numerous homes, did roof damage to Sylvan Hills High School and damaged the Sherwood Sports Complex, where the tornado siren was blown down.

Leader staff writer Heather Hartsell and the Associated Press contributed to this report.