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In A Tornado-Ravaged Town, A High School Inside A Big-Box Store

On May 22nd, one of the worst tornadoes in U.S. history decimated the small town of Joplin, Missouri. 161 people died, and thousands more lost everything they owned, including their homes. Even the local 1,200-student high school was destroyed (along with nine other smaller schools). After the dust had settled and the TV crews packed it in, Joplin began to rebuild. With only three months until the next school year, most disaster experts suggested sending students to schools in neighboring counties.

Yet Joplin’s superintendent insisted the school year would begin on time. And somehow, at 7:45 a.m. on August 17th, students sat down at desks in a new 80,000-square-foot school. From the day of the tornado to the construction deadline, the school took only 55 days to complete. The story of how they did it is a fascinating case study in adaptive reuse. 

C.J. Huff, the superintendent of Joplin Schools since July 2008, will share how he lead led his district of 1,100 employees and 7,700 students through the recovery effort written about above at PopTech 2012: Toward Resilience, in October.

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