‘Back to school’ feeling for Petal Upper Elementary

Petal Upper Elementary students are greeted by cheerleaders as they enter into the building.

PETAL, Miss. (WHLT) — Petal Upper Elementary students returned to their original building for classes this morning.

January 21st’s deadly EF-3 tornado left damage to the school.

Petal Harvey Baptist Church had opened up their doors as a temporary school for the past two months.

“It feels like early August,” said Luke Daniels, a 6th grade Math teacher. “You know just that energy running through the building. The kids are anxious to be back in action and to be back home makes you grateful for what you had.”

Superintendent Matt Dillon said the reconstruction on the building was completed in the time line they originally were shooting for.

“It doesn’t look that different and it just feels the same but it feels like some memories were lost,” said student Aaliyah Moody. “I was just talking to my friend and she said there was writing on the floor back there from doing a project together. They really bonded with their friends and group through that project and i feel like if I look over there now, those words and those letters will be faded.”

She said she will continue to remember the memories shared in the building and is thankful for the Petal Harvey Baptist Church.

“They really helped us to keep on with our education and I would like to thank them for that,” she said. “It was different. It felt weird because it wasn’t necessarily a school.”

For Daniels, teaching outside of a classroom forced him and other teachers to think outside the box.

“The biggest challenge for the past two months has been just maintaining the same expectations for the students and for ourselves being in a kind of unconventional setting,” he said. “Just as far as materials and conveniences that often times are taken for granted. Just having that ability of having so many more ways of reaching the kids here through technology, the ability to switch classes. We [teachers] had to learn how to teach students who we hadn’t taught all year long.”

Cheerleaders, the Petal Panther mascot, school officials even a Petal police officer were there to welcome students back with hugs and smiles.

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