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The students, faculty, and community members of Fruitvale ISD are working together to pick up the pieces after the April 29 tornado caused significant damage to their community.
Classes resumed Monday after the schools were closed for one week. The majority of the high school remains closed due to interior damage leaving students in grades pre-K through 12 to share the elementary and middle school buildings.
According to Fruitvale ISD Superintendent Rebecca Bain, the students were excited and eager to return to school. “School provides a safe, fun and routine environment for our students. For some of our students who have been displaced as a result of the damage done by the tornado, school may be the only thing that is providing them with consistency,” Bain said.
Faculty and staff had assistance welcoming students back to school Monday. Members from Minute Man Disaster Relief provided students with a stuffed bear named Stormy. Students are encouraged to bring the bear to school each day to provide comfort. Therapy Dogs of Van Zandt County were also at the school to greet students as they returned. Mentoring Minds delivered over 400 backpacks to the school filled with basic toiletries, school supplies, and snacks. Students are encouraged to bring their empty backpack back to school each day to be refilled with food or any other items they might need. The backpack included a letter to communicate the resources that are available in the community.
According to Bain, the school acts as a main source of communication for the community. “Many of our community members trust the school as the best source for information in Fruitvale. We provide a resource to this community and it is our responsibility to help take care of our community.” The school hosted a community meeting shortly after the tornado that included county and government officials to help organize community efforts and resources.
Bain said that none of her students were significantly injured in the storm but two staff members completely lost their homes. “Looking around at the damage caused by the tornado we are so blessed that none of our students were significantly injured,” Bain said. Faculty and staff members received trauma training prior to the students return, to help them provide emotion support to the students. “Our students and faculty are in good spirits and I think everyone is just truly happy to be here,” Bain said.
According to school officials, monetary donations and clean-up volunteer work are what the community needs at this time. “So much food and water has been donated and this community is so very grateful. Those who have lost their homes just do not have anywhere to store food and water and things such as that at this time. They really need to buy clothes, shoes and personal daily items,” Bain said. For more information on ways to volunteer you can call the Volunteer Reception Center at (903) 502-0151.
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