Guilford County Schools heads into first year after Greensboro tornado

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Planning for the start of school is different this year for Hampton Elementary School, Dr. LaToy Kennedy and her curriculum team. They’re meeting in their temporary digs – Reedy Fork Elementary.

Hampton is one of three schools severely damaged in the tornado that ripped through East Greensboro in April. Peeler Elementary and Erwin Montessori are the other two.

“The trailers were demolished and there was a lot of water damage from what I recall,” Kennedy said.

This was Dr. Kennedy’s third tornado.

“I know how it does your psyche,” she told FOX8. “I know for myself when the sky looks funny, I get a little antsy. When it rains hard, I get a little antsy.”

The storm affected around half of her nearly 300 students.

“A lot of them were like, 'What are we going to do? Are we coming back to our school? My house was destroyed, I don’t have any clothes, I don’t have this,'" she said. "So, we took all that in and tried to make things better."

Debris is still all around the campus, and windows and doors are still boarded up. There’s a lot of cleanup happening right now before any repairs can be made.

“Our basic focus is to preserve the schools,” said Guilford County Schools Chief Operating Officer Scott McCully. “So, we have the dehumidifiers running. All electricity is up right now, it’s currently working in all our schools – which is good news.”

McCully said the next step is getting the alarm systems running again so they can phase out the 24/7 security that’s been at the schools since April – at the district’s expense. The district announced in June that students from the three schools will remain in the schools they relocated to in April. Peeler stays at Bluford Elementary, Erwin stays at Alamance Elementary and Hampton stays at Reedy Fork.

“We want to try to complete this as quickly as possible so we can start planning for the future and letting families know exactly what the plans are and the timetable for those plans,” said McCully.

“It was like a 30-minute bus ride from where he gets picked up to where the school is located,” said Michael Cook of his son’s ride to Reedy Fork.

Cook’s son was a second grader at Hampton last year. His family took the district up on one of the transfer options it offered, and his son will transfer to Simkins Elementary in the fall.

“It wasn’t an easy decision because there’s no Hampton technically right now. It’s shared with Reedy Fork. But in terms of that distance and trying to make things easier for my child is my goal.”

Scott McCully says engineers had to come in to look at some of their systems, and the insurance carrier is reviewing that information along with all the damage assessments. The district doesn’t know how long that will take, but we’re told as soon as they’re able to give any update to the timeline for these buildings they will.

The schools are assigned to their relocated buildings for the entire 2018-19 school year. The plan does not extend beyond.