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Teachers and students pick up the pieces in wake of tornado that heavily damaged Seminole charter school

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Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma
Damage to the Academy of Seminole in Seminole, Okla., following this week's tornadoes.

Kyle Moore’s school day was totally normal.

The social studies teacher at the Academy of Seminole led lessons about the Holocaust, the Oklahoma City bombing and hosted a Mario Kart tournament for e-sports students.

But by the evening, he knew he’d never have a normal school day in his classroom again.

Moore’s modular classroom was almost completely destroyed by a tornado that ripped through the charter school Wednesday night.

The tornado did wide damage to Seminole. Mobile buildings like Moore’s classroom were tossed around and a multitude of buildings were damaged by the multi-vortex tornado that moved directly over Seminole, one of several tornadoes to touch down in the state.

Since then, Moore has had a simple message to his students - many of whom came to school to help clean up Thursday.

“When you get knocked down, you get back up again,” Moore said. “And so that's what we've been talking about.”

The school had about a dozen modular classrooms that all sustained heavy damage. The permanent structure piece of the building, an old armory, was also largely destroyed. Much of its roof was ripped off in the storm.

School founder and chair of the charter school’s board, Paul Campbell, said the school will rebuild.

“We can replace all these things,” Campbell said. “We can’t replace the people and luckily we didn’t lose any of them. We will come back stronger. I have no doubt.”

Campbell said it’s unclear how the school will proceed, but he said he knows they will have in person classes come fall.

The Seminole Public School district also sustained damage in the storm. The middle school’s gym lost its roof and there were a few issues with flooding.

Power remained out across much of the city Thursday afternoon. Superintendent Bob Gragg said he hopes classes will resume Monday, as long as electricity returns.

As for the long-term, teachers like Moore will have to persevere. He said he has little doubt that his students will be able to thrive moving forward.

“You know, maybe there'll be some someplace we go temporarily to get next year in,” Moore said. “But if in a year, a year and a half, we're into our normal permanent buildings, we have our regular classrooms, you know, how awesome will that be? And this will just be something that we tell… future students about.”

Robby Korth
Robby Korth joined StateImpact Oklahoma in October 2019, focusing on education reporting.