On Monday, Petal Upper Elementary students took part in the “big reveal.”
But first, the furniture in their remodeled school needed to be staged.
It might sound like an episode of HGTV’s Laurel-based Home Town, but it was another step in the recovery process following the deadly tornado that swept across the Pine Belt on Jan. 21.
The storm heavily damaged the school, so classes were moved to Petal Harvey Baptist Church. After two months of work at PUE, the smiling faces of students returned to the schools’ halls this week.
More than a dozen members of the Pine Belt chapter of Community Connection volunteered Saturday morning to help the school’s teachers get their classrooms arranged in time for the first bell.
“I could not be prouder of our staff, our students and our community,” Petal Upper Elementary Principal Rob Knight said. “Many volunteers had damage to their homes, but that didn’t stop them from showing up and helping us at the school. And I’m so thankful for the support today from the local Mississippi Power folks.”
According to Knight, the school’s roof was pulled back during the storm, causing water damage in several locations of the building.
Emily Shows, a customer service representative in Hattiesburg, is also a Petal Schools parent. In fact, she has three daughters in the district.
“The teachers and staff go above and beyond for our children and I am blessed to call some of the teachers at Petal Upper Elementary my dear friends,” Shows said. “When the students were moved to the church, we were still in restoration mode, so today’s opportunity was a perfect way for us to make a difference for this community.”
Distribution Engineer Matt Ball attended Petal Upper Elementary for third through fifth grades. He was involved in the company’s restoration efforts following the storm and returned to the school for the first time in 20 years Saturday morning.
“As a Petal native, this storm obviously hit close to home,” Ball said. “It was great to be able to come back today and support the teachers and staff of a great school.”
Shows added, “Our community is close-knit and when one suffers, there is an inherent calling to do what you can to help.”
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