Rebuilding Joplin After the Storm

JOPLIN, Mo. — On May 22, 2011, Joplin experienced devastating loss — losing 162 people and nearly 8,000 structures as a result of a powerful tornado ripping through the town of more than 50,000 residents.

Of the buildings destroyed by the tornado — 10 buildings in the Joplin School District were significantly damaged or completely devastated.

With some students unable to attend classes the district thought of a temporary solution until more aid was available. According to the district, 54 percent of Joplin student’s didn’t have a school to attend immediately after the disaster.

The Joplin School District in partnership with architects and engineers from DLR Group’s Kansas City, Mo., office and Corner Greer and Associates based in Joplin, Mo., helped to create an interim high school until a new facility could be built.

Jim French, AIA, DLR Group K-12 Education Forum Leader, has dedicated more than three decades to educational design. When asked about highlights of his career, he immediately said designing the temporary Joplin High School, seeing the outpour of support from the community, and being able to contribute to the town’s reconstruction.

The 80,000-square-foot high school was designed to look more like an upscale community college than a high school. The school was designed to house 1,200 juniors and seniors during the next three years.

“We didn’t just want to build a suburban office medical building,” said DLR Group associate Brian Murch. “We wanted something they could be proud of — not just a Band-Aid.”

The architects along with construction group Crossland Construction Company of Columbus, Kan., worked to build the school using a three-dimensional design. The school is a paperless environment meaning students are not required to bring text books — instead all class materials are available on district-provided laptops.

The temporary school also features a small health club instead of a gymnasium, media centers instead of traditional libraries or study halls, as well as a coffee bar and a store that will act as an IT help desk. The temporary school will be able to accommodate students but doesn’t have the necessary space to hold any extracurricular activities such as band and basketball practice.

According to Chad Greer, Corner Greer principal the district agreed to pay DLR Group and Corner Greer 6 percent of the $5.1 million project for architect fees.

The district suffered nearly $151 million in damage from the massive tornado and plans to eventually restore or rebuild the 10 schools affected by the storm. The current plans call for the rebuilding of four of the district’s schools — but the hopes to restore all the damage is the ultimate goal for the district.

A new contract is underway now involving four school rebuilding projects. DLR Group and Corner Greer and Associates will rebuild Joplin High School and the Franklin Technology Center on the same campus. Holace and Miller Architects of Overland Park, Kan., are working on the design for East Middle School and East Elementary School. Sapp Design Associates of Springfield, Mo., will be designing Irving Elementary.

The high school is slated for completion in Aug. 2014. The current temporary high school will then be leased after the opening of the new permanent high school.

East Middle School, East Elementary School and Irving Elementary School are all slated for completion in Dec. 2013. The land for Irving Elementary School was donated to the school district by St. John’s Hospital.

Students will be provided a new learning space free equipped with state-of-the-art technologies to give them the resources needed to succeed.

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