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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Joplin Students Say Goodbye to Mall School

The new Joplin High School plans to incorporate the open concept it has featured in its temporary building the past three

Friday marked the last day for eleventh and twelfth grade students inside the temporary Joplin High School behind Northpark Mall.

The vacant 90,000 square foot department store was revamped to accommodate upper classmen just 57 days following the May 22, 2011 tornado, which damaged or destroyed many district buildings. Ninth and tenth graders have been attending the former Memorial Middle School.

Locke McAllister, a 17-year-old junior, says the facility at the mall lends itself to a more mature environment.

“I’d be perfectly fine going probably four years in this school. If it was a little bit bigger, I mean if it could hold the other two grades in here, but it’s a cool school, honestly. I have enjoyed being here,” McAllister said.

Those popular elements at the temporary school are being incorporated into Joplin’s new $110 million high school and tech campus that will house all four grade levels this fall. Dr. Kerry Sachetta is the principal.

“We got the big doorways, we got the wider hallways, we got the soft seating, we got the different size tables, we got monitors everywhere, we got the laptop charging stations everywhere, [and] we got congregating spaces everywhere. I think every single design principal that’s in here is in the new school.”

The new facility willconsist of various buildings connected through skywalks. It will feature, among other things, three gymnasiums, a dozen or so "think tanks," or small glass-walled rooms, lots of natural light and green spaces, as well as safe rooms.

Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center will encompass 400,000 square feet and serve nearly 2,500 students.

The new school, which is being built on the site of the former high school lot, is paid for by insurance, government grants, donations and a portion of the $62 million school bond approved by voters in 2012.

16-year-old sophomore Emily Huddleston didn’t have a chance to experience the temporary school at the mall. She nearly lost her leg in the tornado. But after a strong recovery that’s allowed her to again compete in sports, and her family rebuilding their home, Huddleston feels attending the new high school will serve as a “finishing piece to the healing process.”

“We’ve all kind of been separated in the high school and no one’s really gotten that full high school experience, which I think will be really good for us – to all be together again. It’s kind of like the last piece that kind of fits together,” Huddleston said.

On Jan. 9, 1,300 younger students who had been attending classes at temporary facilities since the 2011 disaster were introduced to three new schools, as Joplin opened Irving Elementary, Soaring Heights Elementary, and East Middle School.

The first day of class at the new Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is scheduled for August 25.

Join KSMU the week of June 23 for our next Sense of Community series, as well follow up on Joplin three years after the tornado. Our series will focus on the community from the standpoints of education, business and the economy, science and the environment, healthcare, and arts.