St. Joseph School in Madison was back and lively with students again Tuesday, Jan. 4, after damage caused by severe storms in December forced the school to close early for Christmas break.
“It was really a priority to make sure that students were able to come back on time, especially since they missed an extra week before Christmas,” said Amy Lavender, St. Joseph principal. “The kids were anxious to get back to their friends and to their routines, and the campus just isn’t the same without everybody in the building, and we’re thankful to see everybody again.”
The severe storms that hit Middle Tennessee in the early morning hours of Saturday, Dec. 11, left the school with a partially missing roof over the gym, flood damage to the floors, broken windows, the loss of a beloved tree near the playground, and several power lines and utility poles downed, which left them without power, internet and phones for several days.
However, thanks to experts whom Lavender brought in to further assess the situation and a clean-up day on Tuesday, Dec. 21, which brought 35 volunteers from St. Joseph Church and School and area high schools, most of the damage was able to be addressed before the start of the semester.
“All the wires have been cleaned up and the roof debris has been cleaned up from the campus,” Lavender said. “There was some brushing of the parking lots and getting some of the debris out of the drains. And we also cleaned the church because … there was some heavy dusting from the impact of the wind.”
There is still more to be done, however, Lavender said.
“The tree on the playground, while it has been cut down and is going to be repurposed into some beautiful furniture for the school by one of the tree services, the playground is still needing repairs to the fence,” she said. “There was also cement and benches around the base of the tree that still need to be removed.”
The gym is also still closed as the first temporary plastic roof continued to expose the room to flooding, but a sturdier adhesive-based roll roofing material was put on Wednesday, Jan. 5, Lavender said. Because of this, physical education classes, band class and the learning specialist classroom has been rerouted to the cafeteria or outside, and students are eating lunch in their classrooms for at least the first week back Jan. 4-7.
“We’re taking it a week at a time for now,” Lavender said. “Hopefully, this new roofing material will do a better job keeping any precipitation out.”
Additionally, broken windows and replacing flooring still has to be addressed.
But Lavender said they wouldn’t be nearly as far as they are without the support of the community, who not only provided clean-up help but has come together to donate more than $30,000.
“We’re so grateful for the financial support of the community. It has been really overwhelming how people want to show their love for the community and help us get back on our feet,” Lavender said. “It’s really amazing how far the reach of the Catholic community goes because some of our donations have come in from out of state.”
To donate to continuing financial relief efforts for St. Joseph School, visit www.saintjosephschoolnashville.org/donate-1.
“We continue to have expenses cropping up,” Lavender said, but she said she’s also hopeful for the rest of the school year. “We want to have a strong second quarter where we’re able to make improvements to our campus and finish the year strong academically, spiritually, and in great health.”