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Tama Middle School continues to adapt to derecho damage several months after the storm

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TOLEDO, Iowa (KWWL) - The South Tama County School District needed to adapt to derecho damage and the pandemic all at once. Nearly every school in the district experienced some damage, but the South Tama Middle School took on the most.

Repairs are expected to finish by early July. Teachers would be able to get into their classrooms by then, and students should be returning to the school by next school year.

"I think we kind of underestimated how bad the damage was," Superintendent Jared Smith said.

The middle school's roof was almost completely ripped off from the strong winds of the derecho. The storm hit over seven months ago.

"We're currently working on the roof over there, and we're hoping to be able to work on the interior within the next couple of weeks," Smith said.

The school wasn't able to hold any classes at the middle school this year. Water damage, debris, and other destruction caused for unsafe conditions inside the building.

Students and teachers were forced to move elsewhere. Another district-owned building, a few miles away from South Tama County Middle School, known as the "Partnership Center" has been used as a temporary school, as renovations take place.

"We always used to complain about that middle school because there's like three floors and there's a lot of stairs and it's hard to move around, but we all miss it now," eighth-grade student Emily Carnahan said.

After a few months of virtual learning, classes started back up in person at the Partnership Center, which used to serve as a school itself. Before welcoming the middle school teachers and students, the building held some meetings and worked as storage for some extracurricular activities.

Space is smaller and some areas of the school are shared. The gymnasium also serves as the lunchroom, the art teacher doesn't have their own classroom, and the overall square footage of the building is smaller.

"I think everyone is looking forward to having our own supplies, and our own spaces and not having to share, or you know, every once in a while we have to go back to the middle school and pick things up," eighth-grade science teacher Paula Graves said.

Superintendent Smith says there is a silver lining that comes with having to deal with the hardships of the pandemic and the derecho all at once.

"It's really made us think about how can we maybe do things a little bit differently," Smith said.

"We've made do. We've made it work, but it will be nice when we don't have to make it work anymore," Graves said.

The harsh winter did push back some of the repairs. According to Smith, some damage was fixed following the storm, but roofers were in high demand for quite some time after the derecho.

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Diego Hernandez

Multimedia Journalist

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