Walnut Hill Elementary School Perseveres Months After Devastating Tornado

An EF-3 tornado can't stop a nationally recognized, award-winning school from continuing a positive learning environment

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It was a Sunday night, Oct. 20, 2019, when a tornado with 140 mph winds touched down in Dallas, right near Walnut Hill Elementary School. 

As the sun rose, it became clear students wouldn't be able to come back to school here the damage was just too great, but that didn't stop them.

The Walnut Hawks moved about 15 minutes west to the old Tom Field Elementary building which was empty, and quickly got new life as Walnut Hill.

“It was very uncomfortable and very confusing because I didn't know where was class was,” said one student.

Teachers say the students never missed a beat. They’re still laughing, being themselves and never really fell behind academically after the tornado.   

They talk about it saying the tornado won't define them, their success will.

Walnut Hill is a National Blue Ribbon School, one of the top schools in America. Students tell us Mandarin Chinese is a favorite class here.

Students at Walnut Hill Elementary are still coping after an EF-3 tornado destroyed their school, but they deal with it all even while learning Mandarin.

From Pre-K to 5th grade, teacher Ping Song says their enthusiasm to learn about China surprises her.

“I thought it would be super, super hard but actually no,” said Song.

The school has a dual-language gifted and talented program, where last week first graders were analyzing poetry by Maya Angelou.

An EF-3 tornado can’t stop a nationally recognized, award-winning school from continuing a positive learning environment.

Teacher Lucero Diaz asked the young minds to come up with evidence in the poem that supported their interpretations of its meaning.  

“Our data shows we're holding steady and we're moving the needle, we fully expect to do.  We're here for kids,” said principal Phillip Potter.

Walnut Hill is a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School, recognized as one of the best schools in the nation, for the work they’re doing, tornado or not.

But ask the students and the things they love may be a bit simpler -- lunch, good bathrooms, and water fountains that deliver great tasting water.

The students at Walnut Hill Elementary School in the Dallas ISD say they have so much to be thankful for this year after losing their school building to a tornado in October. Despite the loss, students and teachers found a way to rebuild and thrive.
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