SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — The old saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” That’s an important lesson kids at George Elementary School in Springdale are learning after their school saw significant damage during the tornado that struck in March of 2022.
Now the school is turning over a new leaf, starting with turning over some dirt.
“It’s the beginning of a new beginning,” said Principal Justin Swope.
On Monday, the Springdale School District broke ground on a new project at George Elementary.
“School is ending and when they come back in August, the front of the building is going to be new,” said Springdale Superintendent Dr. Jared Cleveland. “They’ll get to watch the building process all year long.”
By 2025, the school will have a new gymnasium, library, kitchen, music room and main office.
The EF3 tornado that struck last year completely destroyed the gym and caused significant damage to the main building.
“We had, obviously, a number of homes and families that were impacted by it,” said Swope.
The district is taking this opportunity to give the school and extensive makeover and hopefully there will be a lot of healing as a result of the rebuild.
“It’s really a milestone for our kids so they can see that, yeah, trauma does happen, but we’re gonna get through it. And, we’ll build back better,” said Cleveland.
“I think the kids were very nervous because of the storm and when the gym got blown away, and now that we’re getting the new gym, I think they’re gonna be super excited it,” said Amber Harwell, a pre-k teacher at George Elementary.
There is often a word to describe kids that was proven true again in the school’s students.
“Definitely a lot of resilience,” said Harwell.
“I think resilience is a perfect word for that in terms of just how you go through challenging things like a tornado or maybe it’s other things going on in your life,” said Swope.
One of those resilient students is 4th grader Yaretsi Aguilar.
“That was scary, and I was shocked when I heard the news that the tornado happened,” she said. “I’ve been here since pre-k and I’ve always had this gym. I was sad.”
As much as she’s looking forward to being a 5th grader next year, and eventually an eye doctor in the future, she’s also looking forward to seeing her school put back together.
“I’m really grateful for all the people that helped us, and we’ll help build this new gym and other stuff,” she said.
Dr. Cleveland said it will take about a year and a half for all the renovations to be complete, but the new entrance façade will be done over the summer.
The price tag on the project is $11.2 million, which will be paid through insurance, district funds and state partnership funding. Below are renderings of what the renovations will look like.