Tornado forces Greene County students to share school

Posted May 27, 2011 3:59 p.m. EDT
Updated May 27, 2011 6:06 p.m. EDT

— The tornadoes that pummeled eastern North Carolina last month left Greene County with a tough math problem to solve: Take 800 middle school students, and subtract one school.

Greene County Middle School was heavily damaged in the April 16 storm. School district officials estimated that 70 to 80 percent of the building sustained significant damage, and only a shell of the gymnasium remains.

"It was a bleak moment in my career as superintendent to see the only middle school that serves this county in the condition that you find it in," Greene County Schools Superintendent Patrick Miller said.

About six weeks later, the debris is gone, but officials estimate that it will take at least a year to rebuild the school.

"It was sad at first when I got to see the middle school. All the memories that we had out there (are gone)," ninth-grader Brandon Johnson said. "The destruction of this school affected more people than probably any other building in the county."

District officials figured the only way to make the math work was to have the middle school share facilities with Greene Central High School. In recent weeks, the middle school students attended class in the mornings, and the high school students attended in the afternoons.

"They didn't have any other choices. They could not go to a neighboring school," said Darlene Lang-Koonce, the parent of a middle school student.

To make the schedule change work, administrators had to cut the length of the school day by about two hours. Some high school students complained that the shift hurt their ability to hold after-school jobs, so the schedules are being flipped to allow them to attend in the mornings and the middle school students to have afternoon classes.