Students resume classes after tornadoes tear through Tippecanoe schools

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After tornadoes tore through two of its schools earlier this month, more than 1,000 students and staff with the Tippecanoe School Corporation greet their new normal Monday.

Both Mintonye Elementary School and Southwestern Middle School were damaged when the twisters touched down on Sun., Nov. 17, displacing more than 900 students and about 150 teachers and staff, according to Superintendent Scott Hanback.

“Early indications suggest that our schools will be inoperable for anywhere from six to 12 months, so we wanted to make contingency plans that are going to last probably through the rest of the school year,” Hanback told FOX59 News.  “It’s actually come together really nothing short of a miracle.  That’s for sure.”

Starting Monday morning, First Assembly Community Ministries at 108 Beck Lane in Lafayette will host the preschool through fifth graders from Mintonye and the sixth graders from Southwestern.  The seventh and eighth grade students will attend Wea Ridge Middle School.

“Those teachers have done an amazing job in getting their rooms ready there. Names are on the bulletin board. The students’ names are on the desks and they are going to be welcoming to them,” Hanback said.

“Definitely emotions will run high Monday morning when those teachers are reunited with their students.”

Due to the extreme circumstances, the transition into the new classroom space had to be completed quickly.  A process that normally takes weeks over the summer had to be completed within a 24-hour period, said Mintonye fourth grade teacher Ryan Habben.

“We had about a half a day to box everything up, so that was a really hard endeavor because a lot of us have accumulated some stuff over the years,” Habben said with a laugh.  “Then we put that in the truck and we got it back [to First Assembly] and unloaded it and had to put everything back up in this new school, so it’s been a whirlwind, for sure”

One of Habben’s students who attended the weekend’s Open House at the new school, Hunter Royer, said she was excited to go back to class after having the week off.

“I just never knew that maybe a tornado could hit our school,” Royer said.  “I’m just glad that we’re all here together and that we stayed together.”

Royer’s mom, Cassie, agreed.

“I cannot tell you how amazing this school is.  It’s second to none,” Cassie Royer said in an emotional moment.  “As long as we’re all together, that’s where home is.”

Tornado relief donations are still in need and the public is being asked to donate what it can.

TSC has posted a tornado relief supply list on its website, stating that donations can be dropped off at the administration building at 21 Elston Road in Lafayette from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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Mr. Ryan Habben greets his Mintonye Elementary School students in their new classroom at First Assembly.