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Post-tornado school enrollment rebounds in Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — The Joplin school district’s efforts to rebound after a May 2011 tornado devastated parts of the southwest Missouri city have been successful, with enrollment nearly the same as before the disaster, school officials told the Board of Education.

The district’s enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year dropped 265 students after the E-5 tornado damaged or destroyed 10 schools, killed 161 people and injured hundreds of others. The board was told Tuesday that the district had regained 210 students for this school year, bringing total enrollment to 7,543.

“We wrapped our arms around these families and did everything we could to keep them here, and that effort’s paid off,” Superintendent C.J. Huff said. “Those are good numbers and certainly something to celebrate. It’s going to be an exciting place to be. We’re going to have some beautiful schools and some affordable housing for families to live, and this is going to be a bright spot in the Midwest.”

Assistant superintendent Angie Besendorfer said the district gained 131 students in elementary schools, 51 students at the middle schools and 28 students at the high school, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/PQ3M8n ).

The board was also told Tuesday that the district will receive federal funding for community storm shelters at Irving Elementary and East Middle School, two of the schools that were destroyed. Funding for a shelter at the high school, which was also destroyed, has not yet been approved, said Mike Johnson, director of construction.

Johnson previously said the estimated cost of putting storm shelters at all of the damaged schools is just over $5 million. The district’s 15 percent share of that would be $750,000, with the state paying 10 percent and the federal government paying the rest.

Huff also said the district is preparing to move the sign from the old Joplin High School in the next month or two.

“That’s an important historical marker for a lot of people in this community, and we’re going to do our part to preserve it,” Huff said.

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Information from: The Joplin Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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