Tornado heavily damages school, leaving graduation plans in limbo
WESKAN, Kan. (KWCH/Gray News) - The good news out of the community of Weskan Thursday night is that there are no reports of injuries after a tornado hit the town and caused extensive damage at the K-12 school. The storm ripped off part of the school’s building, broke windows and toppled new bleachers that were up for graduation after an extensive effort from volunteers in the community.
While the damage leaves graduation plans uncertain, Principal Jeffrey Montero shared a message of positivity, focusing on the fact that no one was killed or seriously injured. At the school, Montero played a key role in keeping students and staff members safe. He was watching the sky when alarms went off.
“We got the on our phone and we tried to figure out exactly where [the tornadic storm] was and if we needed to go to the basement,” Montero said. “As some of my staff did that, I went outside and saw some of the clouds starting to spiral.”
That’s when he sounded the school’s alarms, and everyone went to the basement.
“I was really worried about the kids when I was down there trying to keep them safe, keep them calm and make sure they were not freaking out,” Montero said.
After the storm passed, he got a sense of what hit.
“The first thing I saw when we left the shelter, it was in the big gym, and it was a waterfall. The roof had gotten damaged pretty good and the water was coming in from the rain,” Montero said. “And as we walked through the building, there was some broken glass, our east side of the roof had taken some pretty good damage. Upstairs in my office and some of the classrooms, you can look up and see sky.”
One loss that will hit the community hard are the bleachers on the football field.
“We had just fundraised over $75,000 to put them in. Community members spent weeks putting them up,” Weskan said. “We got a chance to take a picture with them as a staff, and we had them up for about a week or two weeks, and I don’t think we’ll ever get to use them again.”
Still, he said it’s important to keep one thing in perspective.
“Honestly, I’m just happy no one got hurt. Things like this happen, bad things happen. No one got hurt, so that’s a good day for me,” Montero said.
A school board member, Christine Smith, who’s also the Wallace County treasurer, reported that about 100 volunteer hours went into the setup for graduation.
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