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Replacement of Tornado-Ravaged Joplin High Starts

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During the Joplin High School Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2012 at the Missouri Southern State University Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on Monday, May 21, 2012, in Joplin, Missouri. President Barack Obama spoke at the event in commemoration of the one year anniversary of the city being struck by an EF-5 tornado.{Photo by SHANE KEYSER | Kansas City Star).

During the Joplin High School Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2012 at the Missouri Southern State University Leggett & Platt Athletic Center on Monday, May 21, 2012, in Joplin, Missouri. President Barack Obama spoke at the event in commemoration of the one year anniversary of the city being struck by an EF-5 tornado.{Photo by SHANE KEYSER | Kansas City Star).

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Crews have started rebuilding a high school that was destroyed when a deadly tornado swept through Joplin in May 2011.

The first structural beams for the new three-story school were dropped into place Wednesday morning, KOAM reported.

This was the first work visible to the community on a building that Superintendent C.J. Huff calls the hub of the community. Work on utilities and footings for the 504,000-square-foot building was largely done underground.

“We’re just really excited about the progress we’re making as a school district and as a community as a whole,” said Huff, who watched with the school board president as a crane moved the beams into place. “This is one more sign of our rebuilding efforts. I think it does a community good to see.

“Joplin High School in and of itself has always been a landmark in this community and getting that back is really important to folks.”

The school system was hit especially hard by the tornado that killed 161 people. Seven students and one employee were among the victims, including a senior pulled from his car by winds on his way home from attending the Joplin High School graduation ceremony at nearby Missouri Southern State University. Six school buildings were destroyed, including the high school. Seven other buildings were badly damaged.

Since then, older students have been attending classes in a converted big-box store. Broadcaster KODE reported that Huff described the recovery efforts as “our own personal moon walk.”

Construction of the new high school is expected to be completed by August 2014.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill announced in a news release Thursday that the school district will receive about $3 million in federal funding to help rebuild and re-equip a vocational training site called the Franklin Technology Center. It’s being combined with the high school.

“These resources are a vital part of the rebuilding process,” McCaskill said. “Joplin continues to offer us an example of resilience and recovery, and I’m confident these additional resources will only help further strengthen this community.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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