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Cedar Rapids high school welcomes back students after 10 months due to derecho damage

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) - Kennedy High School will welcome in students to attend in-person classes on January 19. Their plans to open in September were pushed back because of severe damages the derecho brought upon the school.

Kennedy High School will be the last school in the Cedar Rapids Community School District to let students back in the building for in-person learning. It has been 10 months since students have set foot in the school.

“On the day of the storm we had water coming straight in here," Associate Principal Jessica Johnson said.

Johnson gave KWWL a tour of the school explaining the number of repairs made to the building.

"I think we thought it was well get a little bit of water well have a little bit of cleanup and we'll be good. And then when we came back a couple days later, and we saw how much water actually came in the building we realized it wasn't going to be a quick fix," she said.

Patching up gaping holes in the roof in multiple parts of the building, replacing counter tops, renovating the gym floor, and continuing to make their way through the countless numbers of books that experienced water damage are just some of the renovations.

The projects over the last five months equaled out to $11 million, and counting. A few projects still need to be completed inside the building and the exterior as well. School officials hope to have repairs completely finished by the spring.

"Kind of weird just sitting out and watching your school building not be a school building," Kennedy High School Teacher George Anderson said.

Teachers are also preparing to welcome in students. Rearranging desks in order to be socially distant, and adjustments to any coursework needed to be done leading up to the reopening.

The teachers were only recently allowed in to the school, so their workplace is also something to get used to. The teachers at Kennedy High have been teaching remotely as the building was deemed unsafe until just recently. This will be their first time teaching in person since schools first shut down in March.

"I'm just excited. That's my favorite element of the job, is the students in the building and the energy that can come with that. On a mental side, I've just been trying to get myself ready for what that might look like and for what the students might expect," Anderson said.

Kennedy High School will offer a hybrid learning model, and is preparing for half of the student body to return to in-person learning.

Principal Jason Kline says he appreciated the community's support during these last few months following the derecho.

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Diego Hernandez

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