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Tornado Recovery Efforts Almost Complete in Kansas

The rural community of Chapman, Kan., school district's restoration project will be completed January 2012.

Three years after tornadoes ripped through a high school, middle school and elementary school in the small rural community of Chapman, Kan., the school district's restoration project, which includes a new art building, will be completed January 2012. The high school, middle school, elementary school and gym, which opened in January 2011, include hallways without glass in the ceilings and stronger doors. The middle school has a safe room below ground that is designed as a tornado shelter.

On June 11, 2008, Unified School District 473, with 1,050 students, lost three schools, leaving only three smaller elementary schools on the outskirts of town. (The community's devastation was seen around the country, and in January 2009, the popular television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built a local family's home and a safe shelter for the community.) Former superintendent Tony Frieze did not blink, however, and said school would open as scheduled in August. 

"Frieze had been superintendent for 12 years and had been with the district for over 30 years. He was committed to the community," says Lacee Sell, the current superintendent. To rebuild the district, funding was pooled together from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), insurance, and an $8.2 million bond from the town.

Classrooms were held in crowded mobile units provided by FEMA. The district partnered with a Midwest architecture firm, Bowman Bowman Novick, for its construction.