Tornado-Damaged Red Oak ISD School Set to Reopen

Shields Elementary sustained significant damage during a tornado on December 26, 2015

The term "back to school" holds special meaning in the Red Oak this year because it means the return of students to Shields Elementary School, which was damaged by tornadoes Dec. 26, 2015.

Several exterior walls became detached from the building and fell over, exposing the Red Oak Independent School District school’s interior to extensive damage from what was rated as an EF1 tornado, with wind speeds between 86 and 110 miles per hour.

An engineering firm hired by the school district revealed flaws in the construction that contributed to the collapse of the walls.

But a stated goal of district leaders was to get the kids back in the building by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, and all signs indicate that goal will be met.

“We have a complete school building again,” district Assistant Superintendent of Campus Operations Kevin Freels said of the nearly eight month renovation project. “That’s very comforting at this point, since school is right around the corner and we really want to get the students back where they belong.”

Freels and other district leaders have invited the community to tour the building Saturday morning. The event is billed as a move-in day and a community celebration.

“I’ll tell you what’s been impressive – the community just rolling out, pouring their heart out. And people that don’t even live here pouring their heart out,” Superintendent Dr. Scott Niven said during a visit to the campus. “The [bad] things that you see and always hear about, you sometimes forget about all the good and nice things that are happening.”

Niven praised the dozens of community members who came out in the days after the tornado and volunteered long hours to recover what could be preserved from inside of the damaged building, and then helped to quickly prepare a vacant district middle school building to serve as a temporary site for students during the spring semester.

In addition, Niven emphasized that the damaged building was not only repaired, but also greatly improved upon. For example, rooftop air conditioning units, which were ripped off in the December storm and thrown toward neighboring homes, are now safely secured to the building.

Niven noted that the safety glass throughout the building, which was supposed to be resistant to shattering, has now been reinforced by a protective film to prevent it from being scattered throughout the school like it was in December.

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