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HENRYVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- These images were taken on July 10, 2012. Click on the "filmstrip" above to view the images, and click on the left and right arrows to toggle through each of the individual slides.
It is a rebuilding project that many thought impossible -- but in less than a month, students in Henryville, Indiana will return to a school that was nearly leveled by tornadoes.
If project manager Kevin Barnes sounds like a proud new father, it's for good reason: "Come up here," he says. "Come up here and see some that are already close to being finished."
He continues: "These rooms are just waiting on the ceiling to be covered up. They got the new tile in this week. Already carpeted. And ACs are in." Since mid- March, he has helped oversee the re-birth of the Henryville School.
Barnes and his crew of more than 300 are pulling off what many thought improbable. Working nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they are doing in five months, what would normally take a year or more. He admits, "There are times when you think it's not going to happen, but it came together."
The March 2nd tornado left the school in shambles, collapsing hallways and filling them with debris. Now those same hallways are intact and filled with construction workers. There is activity everywhere.
Barnes explains, "Pretty much all the exterior was removed off this entire building, and had to be reframed, rebricked, a lot of new steel put in. It was just too damaged from the storm."
Now many of those classrooms look like they're almost ready for final exams. "A lot of these we've already started moving stuff back into," Barnes says. "Already carpeted. Contents are going back in."
John Reed, West Clark Assistant Superintendent, says, "It's incredible to see that everything is being put back and in much better shape than what it was originally."
If there is one image that came to represent the storms' destruction, it's the video of the main gymnasium exploding, the walls bursting, littering the floor.
"There was nothing in here," Barnes says. "I think six of the steel supports had to be replaced. All new roofing. Of course, all new flooring." That gymnasium today is brightly lit and nearly complete, down to the Henryville Hornet on the floor.
Barnes says, "All the floors were completely ripped up and started over. They're the highest quality maple you can get. It will be absolutely beautiful. SEC quality floors."
Reed says, "It's nothing short of a miracle. The films that we had of the room exploding, there was just very little hope in my mind that this could be pulled off before school started. But, we're there."
That's because a community refused to back down in the face of disaster. Reed explains, "That's the only way something like this can get done as quickly as it has. It's been a fantastic effort. The team, everyone working together."
While the heavy construction is pretty much done, it's going to be a hectic final three weeks, as Belfor puts on the final touches and brings in the supplies that teachers and students will need.
Many of those supplies will be familiar. Belfor has salvaged what it could from the debris and is returning it to the original classrooms.
Barnes says, "We rented a 34,000 square foot warehouse in Sellersburg where we unpacked the boxes, cleaned everything, determined what was salvageable and not, inventoried it, repacked it, and packaged it to bring it back here so it could be brought back to the correct room and unpacked with the teachers."
Much of what could not be salvaged has been donated. Reed says, "We have had, right now I believe at last count, close to 50 trailer truckloads of donated materials, supplies, equipment. Anything that you can imagine a school building needs."
It's enough to make even a veteran construction man proud, according to Barnes: "It's always amazing to see it come back together. I never get to see a place before it was damaged, so it's always a treat to see what it looks like when it comes back together."
The price tag for the project is $51 million and counting, almost all paid by insurance. The first day of class is August 7th.