DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — With their schools now destroyed, thousands of Dallas ISD students returned to class today — albeit in hurriedly prepared spaces.
Thomas Jefferson senior Lauren Zelaya said she is ready to restart the year at the old Edison Middle School, but hopes she doesn’t get lost in the new building.
“I’m excited to see what the year holds,” she said.
Thomas Jefferson High is one of three DISD schools destroyed in Sunday’s tornado outbreak. Less than 36 hours later, district staffers pulled off the epic task of returning the building previously used for training and storage, to classroom space.
Geometry teacher Julie Hermanson had just hours to pull her new classroom together and began the day with some file cabinets still pushed to one side. Nevertheless, with students in place and a marker in hand, she was soon back to teaching her students.
“It’s such a relief,” Hermanson said. “We were expecting the worst, just the condition everything was in. DISD has been amazing about rallying the community and gathering the resources, so it’s going to be okay.”
The Thomas Jefferson relocation involved a student body of just under 1900.
Students from three elementary schools with less severe damage — Burnet, Cigarroa and Pershing — are being taught temporarily at Loos Field House.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said he was thoroughly impressed when he went to Loos.
“One-thousand kids [were] there from three different elementary schools. They were sitting on the floor, volunteers from local private schools were there helping us — they made banners for the students… The fact that we are having school in a makeshift arena made me really proud,” Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa also heaped praise on his leadership team and staffers for pulling off what must have initially seemed impossible.
“I feel like a proud papa,” he said. “Transportation: Our team stepped up. I don’t know how they did it… They had to outsource. But, we got the kids picked up, delivered. Stephanie Elizalde, our chief of school leadership, is such a problem solver that she got her principals and her team so fired up, to go make things happen, that they made it happen… I want to thank them for that.”
The superintendent also called the outpouring of support from the Dallas community “overwhelming.”
SMU delivered new cleats and gloves for the football team — set to play their rescheduled homecoming game at 10 a.m. Saturday morning at Loos Field.
The Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Cowboys have also offered support.
Thomas Jefferson’s football coach Kendall Hill said his players are eager to play, telling him “Coach, we need that normalcy.”
The school community knows that there are still adjustments to be made… But, they’re trying to mourn and still maintain perspective.
“It’s not about the building,” Zelaya said. “It’s about the people.”