Tornado-ravaged Fayetteville school to reopen

Students of Fayetteville's Ben Martin Elementary School will be back in their old classrooms on Thursday, officials said Monday.

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Students of Fayetteville's Ben Martin Elementary School will be back in their old classrooms on Thursday, officials said Monday.

The school on Reilly Road was heavily damaged on April 16 when a cluster of tornadoes barreled across central and eastern North Carolina.

Parts of the school's roof were ripped off, and heavy rains soaked everything inside. Cumberland County Schools officials estimated the damage at $5.2 million.

Students finished the school year at the Ramsey Street Alternative School and the old Hillsborough Elementary School. 

The initial date to reopen the school had been in December, but crews worked so rapidly, the school was able to reopen in time to start the 2011-12 school year.

“The date just kept bumping up, and when they realized they could push extra hard, they could get us in here by the time school starts," Ben Martin principal Crystal Brown said. “And they did it. They got us in.”

About 480 students are enrolled for this school year, down from 615 students last spring. Brown said they’re getting new enrollees every day, so that number is expected to rise.

On Monday, teachers were decorating classrooms in preparation for the first day of school. 

"I'm just tickled to death. I'm just amazed at all the work. We would not have been able to do this without all the community," kindergarten teacher Vicky Cashwell said. 

During the tornado, the ceiling over Cashwell's classroom was blown off. It was one of the worst damaged classrooms in the school.

Cashwell said Monday it was nice to have a "blank canvas" to work on. In addition to her decorations, she also brought in stacks of children’s books donated by the community.

“To be back in here is awesome,” said Martha Fuller, who teaches pre-kindergarten children next door to Cashwell.


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