Marshalltown School District Helping Students Cope with Tornado Damage

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MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- School is back in session in Marshalltown, nearly two months after a tornado destroyed parts of town. School leaders are taking a  different approach this year towards their students who were impacted by the storm.

"At the start of the school year we knew it was going to be different, unlike any other that we`ve had," says Principal, Tim Holmgren.

The difference is clear from the playground at Franklin Elementary School which stood in the path of the EF - 3 tornado.

"It`s difficult when you know that there still families across the community who are struggling," he said.  "A lot of tarps on the roofs and a lot of people are still displaced, living local hotels and shelters."

Nearly 40 students and staff were directly affected by the twister. Guidance counselors are dedicating time and sensitivity to understand each students account of the storm and their needs as a result of it.

"Kids process things so differently. Some of their life experiences are so different compared to other kids."

Holmgren says the school is working with kids on practicing storm drills being while being especially mindful for those who now have anxiety when they see dark clouds or storm sirens. School social workers are also looking to other communities affected by tornadoes like Parkersburg, a town devastated by a tornado in 2008, for advice on student support as the year goes on.

"Sometimes the PTSD doesn't show up until later so to be able to have a plan for when those things happen, is one of our big things we are going to be tackling this year," said Samantha Solcum as a student resource specialist.

School leaders say they were eager for school to resume to help bring back a sense of normalcy for students.

"It's just been a blessing to help help them get back to the routine of being a kid," Holmgren said.

A significant amount of damage was done to the elementary school. Repairs to the roof are completed but officials say work on the H-VAC system and fencing is still underway.


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