Joplin High School Eagles start school in a new "nest"

Related Story

JOPLIN - Joplin High School students started school Tuesday in the first building to support all four classes in more than three years.

After the EF-5 tornado destroyed homes, businesses and the high school, the students jumped between different facilities at each grade level.

Cole Carver is starting his second year in high school. He said he is most excited about the school's athletic center, which includes a 2,500-seat gymnasium and two auxiliary gyms.

"It's massive," Carver said. "I went in and saw everything and it's insane."For the older students, principal Kerry Sachetta said the school is a symbol to the future.

"We didn't want to put a lot of reminders of the tornado in the building," Sachetta said. "They have been through a lot."

When the tornado hit, the senior class had just finished middle school. As the students entered high school months after the tornado, the community managed to make it work.

"I was kind of devastated I mean at the time I didn't think we would even go to school that year or start school in Joplin." Senior Ashley Nicholson said.

"The old campus it was almost a hundred years old but we had 1000 kids in a building that was really built for 8 to 900 kids," Sachetta said.

Then, the students moved to a mall for temporary schooling.

Senior Saniya Ablatt said her experiences at the two other temporary schools made her appreciate the new building more.

"To be able to say I'm a senior graduating as the very first class of a real high school experience in this amazing school is one of the most fulfilling things that I'll be able to say this year," Ablatt said.

The 487,937 square-foot school can accommodate more than 2,500 students.  It has four student/staff safe room and one community safe room. But for some, having everyone reunited under the same roof is the school's best quality.

"You couldn't get everyone together for a pep rally at the old campuses," Sachetta said. "We'll be able to rock the house this year."

"As a student who had some classes in one campus and some in another, I can say it's been a mixed experience," Ablatt said. "Not only does having this school finished mean we're coming together as 9, 10, 11, and 12th graders, but we're also coming together as a community to show that Joplin is really strong."

The estimated high school construction cost is $121.5 million.