Tornado Forces Jones County To Build Temporary Classrooms

For at least the next two weeks, students and teachers at West Jones Middle School and West Jones High School have been told to stay home. During that time, a temporary school will be built inside a vacant Wal Mart.

A blown out brick wall. A gymnasium littered with debris. A trashed classroom. Scott Lewis showed us those scenes on a tour of tornado ravaged West Jones Middle School.

"What you see right now is basically what you saw on Friday," Lewis said as he maneuvered his way around some of the mess.

Lewis is the Jones County School District's business manager. He's been at the West Jones campus ever since the tornado blew holes through middle school classrooms, and the high school gym. Every time Lewis or another school official walk down a hallway, they see more tornado damage.

Fallen insulation and broken room pieces litter the school grounds.

Despite the damage, architects said the six year old middle school and the 37 year old high school held up pretty well.

Mark Henley works with the school district architects. He said, "Structurally we're in pretty good shape for the most part." Henley pointed out that the middle school building suffered the bulk of the damage. "So we're going to have to do some extensive demolition to get it down to where we can tell what happened to the structure there," he said. "The rest of it is mostly roof damage."

The demolition and the cleanup will begin as early as Tuesday morning. While that's being done, temporary classrooms will be built inside what used to be a Laurel Wal Mart. And Governor Musgrove said the state will do what it can to help the West Jones schools gather supplies.

Superintendent Thomas Prine said his district was fortunate that nobody was at the school when the tornado blew through. "We can replace buildings," the superitendent said. "Lives and serious injuries are what we're concerned about. And that didn't happen. We're thankful for that."

Superintendent Prine said it will take about two weeks to turn the old Wal Mart into middle school and high school classrooms.

So you know, the tornado destruction wasn't confined to just the schools. One Jones County home was destroyed. And 10 others had tornado damage.