By Jeff Awtrey and Tina Alexander
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Last week's EF-3 tornado caused heavy damage to a Lufkin elementary school. Now the staff at Hackney Primary has to cut their vacation short in order to move into Slack Elementary. Hackney teachers are maintaining a positive attitude and said they won't let the stress of the move keep them from doing their jobs.
The powerful storm wreaked havoc up and down Lubbock Street in Lufkin. Hackney Primary was in the tornado's path. It ripped across the school campus, tearing through the school and adjacent gymnasium like it was a paper bag, pulling cemented poles right out of the ground and spinning temporary trailer units upside down. "You see the pictures and you see the news and it doesn't compare to walking inside and seeing this," said Lisa Alvarez, a teacher at Hackney. "Very disheartening but thank God the children were safe and there was nobody here," said the principal, Shirley Jolley.
The staff was just getting ready to say goodbye to the work crews wrapping up construction on a major bond project on campus. Now they will have to make an even bigger adjustment by packing up their things and moving to another campus, four miles away. "We were fortunate enough to get in touch with all of our teachers and they are here at Hackney today, planning to box up some things to move over and prepare for Slack," said Jolley said.
Thirteen teachers, along with the rest of the faculty and staff, have had their winter vacations cut short. "It's fine. Christmas is over. We got informed and now we're up here. That's what we do, that's that extra duties as assigned," said Ashley Suttles, an ESL teacher at Hackney. However, they refuse to let a natural disaster ruin their spirits.
"It's just picking up and going where we need to go. Yes, it is stressful to think of it as a big picture but you just take it one day at a time. Get there and take care of our kids."
"I think it brings us closer. We consider ourselves family anyway so we'll do whatever it takes."
And, in a fortunate ironic twist, that pesky bond project may have spared the school further damage as the new concrete enclosure protected several classrooms which would have otherwise been exposed to the storm.
Classes for Hackney Primary children will resume January 11 at Slack Elementary, which is one week later than what was originally scheduled. Jolley said she did not expect the Hackney campus to be ready for classes during this school year.