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New Joplin, Mo., schools open three years after tornado

Three new schools are equipped with modern spaces for 21st-century learning
  • Cafeteria commons: Students at East Middle School will enjoy breakfast and lunch in their new commons area. The space is flooded with natural light and designed with special touches including booths, high-top tables and outdoor seating.
  • Glass-paneled library: As students enter the new Irving Elementary, one of the first rooms they see is the light-filled media center and library. The colorful space includes soft-seating areas where students can lounge with a book, quiet workstations, and areas for teachers and students to collaborate on projects.
  • Open spaces: Instead of hallways, students at the new Irving Elementary enjoy open spaces between their classrooms called “learning parks.” The fourth and fifth graders’ learning park mimics outer space, complete with planets and comets. The learning parks are used for collaborative lessons and activities between classrooms and provide a space for indoor recess when necessary.
  • Safe rooms: All schools will have safe rooms built to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines. The safe rooms also serve as gymnasiums and are designed to provide shelter for students, staff and residents living within a five-minute walking distance during severe weather.

Joplin, Mo., lost three schools to one of the deadliest tornadoes to strike the nation in May 2011. And nearly three years later, in January, three new schools opened their doors for 1,300 students who had been attending classes at temporary facilities since the disaster.

The new Irving Elementary, Soaring Heights Elementary and East Middle School are equipped with modern spaces for 21st-century learning, including open areas for socializing and group work, iPad and laptop carts and Apple TVs in every classroom.