Jaxboro students return to school on Tuesday after the EF-3 tornado

Students in Jaxborough will return to class on Tuesday of the week after an EF-3 tornado hit the small town in Jack County.

The high school remained damaged but was declared safe enough for students to return. Elementary school is still too dangerous.

The children will be divided between the middle school campus and the churches that become makeshift schools.

9-year-old Chloe Wells is holding her backpack near the school front door Tuesday morning.

“Half of our books were destroyed in our library, and I just had mine,” she said.

“I’m stressed she’s going back to school,” said mother Britney Wells.

Britney is still processing the panic from last week’s tornado in Jaxboro. The EF-3 twister touched an elementary school and caused severe damage. It was the strongest tornado during last week’s eruption across the country.

“I was at a door, and I felt a wind approaching,” she recalled.

Chloe and another 500 children crowded the hallway. No one was injured, but the structure was damaged.

A week later, Jaxboro ISD is now welcoming its students. But the first day back will look different.

Principal Michael Cowles and his teachers spent Monday turning the town’s first Baptist church into an improvised elementary school.

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“The school is not a building. The school is what happens in it,” she said.

Tuesday morning, pre-K to fifth-graders will be dispersed to First Baptist, Parish Jacksonborough, Fort Richardson Masonic Lodge and Jacksonborough Middle School.

Teachers divide classes, and students will eat lunch in shifts.

“My number one priority is to get them back to what normalcy we can provide them,” Cavals said.

In high school, 300 students will also begin their studies on Tuesday. Jaxboro High School is considered safe for students while the gym is undergoing rebuilding.

“Why God chose me to be in this situation at the time, I do not know,” Quales said.

A surveillance video shows Quales running down the hall as soon as the lights go out, barely reaching a safe place before the walls start to collapse. He says his priority was his students and staff and parents piled in from the waiting in line for collection.

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“The courage they showed, and they prayed for each other. They comforted each other,” he said. “And I just want to know how proud I am of them as a principal.”

Meanwhile for Chloe, she’s excited to see her classmates for the first time in a week.

“It’s just amazing how kids prayed and their parents and no one was around,” Brittany said.

Structural engineers are still testing the elementary school. Some scores can come back here as early as next week. But for first- to third-graders, it can be several weeks.

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