Students return to class less than a week after tornado caused historic damage to Vardaman Schools

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VARDAMAN, Miss. (WBCI) – Six days ago, an EF-0 tornado hit Calhoun County in the middle of the night, causing significant damage to both Vardaman Elementary and High School.

Tuesday, the elementary school students were there for class.

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“I just remember thinking, ‘We’ve got to get in here and get this cleaned up so we can have school,'” said Vardaman Elementary School Principal Dedee Lee when asked about her reaction to the devastation the tornado left on the school’s campus.

“This is the worst storm we’ve had, as far as damage, since I’ve been here as principal,” she said.

But by the time students arrived Tuesday morning, nearly all the debris was gone, the damaged awning had been removed from the main entrance and the sound of falling scrap metal was replaced by the laughter of happy students.

It was all thanks to the hard work of volunteers and contractors in the wake of the tornado.

“We rallied together and a lot of our farmers and men came out and helped and brought their own equipment and cleaned up,” said reading intervention teacher Wyndi Davis.

Thursday, an architect and insurance agent deemed the elementary school safe enough to let the children back inside.

“It is weird,” Lee said, laughing. “Several of the kids came in this morning that hadn’t been here yet and they were just like, ‘Oh, what happened ?’ so, it’s different.”

Fifth-grader Lizzy Edmondson says that while things still do look strange, she’s happy to be back with her friends.

“I thought we weren’t going to be back to school for a long time,” she said.

Davis, who has been with the school for more than 20 years, says this is just one more example of how Vardaman rises to the occasion when facing adversity.

“We had a fire in our school numerous years ago and our county is kind of notorious for just pulling together, getting back together and making things happen,” she said.

Vardaman high school students will return to class Wednesday.

“The school is very important to our community so [everyone is] always willing to do what it takes,” Davis said.

Superintendent Dr. Lisa Langford tells WCBI the total cost of the damage has not been determined.