SCOTTSBURG, Ind. — A police escort on Monday guided school buses taking some 500 students to the temporary home of their tornado-devastated southern Indiana high school, where dozens of cheering supporters lined their path to the front door.
The Henryville Junior-Senior High School students arrived on about a dozen buses after a 10-mile drive north from their hometown to a Scottsburg business complex where conference and store rooms have been converted into classrooms, computer labs and a cafeteria.
The buses drove underneath a large American flag held up by a crane for the school's first day of classes a month after the March 2 tornadoes that killed 13 people in southern Indiana.
Students walked in the front door of the Mid America Science Park below a banner that read "Welcome Henryville Hornets" with balloons in the school's yellow-and-black colors, past a clapping crowd that included several Scottsburg High School students and others.
Teresa Lewis of Scottsburg told WTHR-TV she came out "just to let them know that there are people out there who care and that we're still here for them."
School leaders said a priority is getting students back in the academic groove after a month away. About 700 elementary students returned to school March 21 at a rented church building in New Albany.
Students seemed happy to take a step back toward normal after the tornadoes wrecked Henryville, Marysville and other nearby communities in the area just north of Louisville, Ky.
Henryville junior Tyler Jenkins said he was eager for Monday to arrive.
"It feels like the first day of school all over again," Jenkins said. "You're worried about what you're wearing and first impressions. I just can't wait to see everybody for the first time."
West Clark Community Schools officials plan to ask the Indiana Department of Education to waive the state's requirement of 180 school days, instead of keeping students in class well into June is part of the recovery process.
Henryville Principal Troy Albert told WAVE-TV the temporary location is better than what most people anticipated.
"I think everybody just expected that it'd just be a big area and it's really a nice facility," Albert said. "It's going to be a great place to have school."