Joplin Students Look Ahead

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JOPLIN - Joplin School District hosted ground-breaking ceremonies throughout the city on Tuesday signaling the start of a new chapter in the school's history.  It's the one-year anniversary of the touchdown of the EF-5 tornado that devastated the southern Missouri community.  

Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff said 600,000 sq. feet of the district's education space was destroyed leaving 3,200 students without classrooms. Joplin's only high school was destroyed.  On Monday, the graduating class of 2012 got their diplomas.  

Julia Lewis is ranked first in her class and she's student council President - earning her a spot on the speaker line-up for the ceremony.  Lewis said she was feeling extra pressure as a student speaker with all the attention surrounding the ceremony due to President Obama's appearance.  Still, Lewis said she hoped her message would resonate with her peers.

"I really wanted my class to realize that they are special and they have a great opportunity to be unique and step out and do something but they actually have to take action to do that. Just scrapping by in life isn't enough," said Lewis.

Lewis and her classmates spent their senior year at an interim high school in North Park Mall.  Lewis said it was challenging because the environment was very different.  She said the classrooms were loud and classes weren't textbook-focused.  Still, she said the changes prepared her for the environment at college.

Huff said many of the district's schools were built in the 1920's and needed to be updated.  Huff said it has taken longer to begin building the new schools because the district wanted to use the opportunity as a chance to modernize its school spaces.  Huff said the new school designs and classroom settings will better prepare students for the future.

The new high school is scheduled to open in August 2014.  August's incoming freshmen class is expected to be the first class to graduate from the new school.