- Associated Press - Thursday, July 10, 2014

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Officials are planning an $11 million project to reopen a middle school near Lafayette that’s been closed since it was badly damaged during a severe storm nearly eight months ago.

Much of the work at Southwestern Middle School will be paid for by insurance, but the Tippecanoe School Corp. will have to cover some costs, said Steve Gloyeske, president of Lafayette-based architect Scholer Corp.

The plans were presented Wednesday to the school board, although it’s uncertain when the school will reopen, the Journal & Courier and WLFI-TV reported. The proposal includes a new lobby and choir rooms in addition to repairs to the Southwestern building, which part of its roof torn off and some exterior walls demolished when the storm hit on a Sunday afternoon in November.

“We’re on the cusp of the timeline coming into better focus,” district Superintendent Scott Hanback said. “What we’ve said is if it’s Christmas, that gives us two to three weeks to move in. If it’s done Jan. 15, we’ll move in Jan. 16. If it’s done Feb. 1, we’ll move in Feb. 2.”

Nearly 1,000 students from Southwestern and neighboring Mintonye Elementary School had to attend classes in temporary locations after the storm damage. Two tornadoes hit near the rural area about 5 miles southwest of Lafayette during a storm wave that saw about two dozen tornadoes across the state.

Southwestern Principal Karen Smith said she was looking forward to the project.

“It’s going to be bigger and better than what we had before and the kids are going to be excited,” she said. “The plans that came into place are to service our kids in ways that we hadn’t been able to before.”

Meanwhile, work is in its final stages at Mintonye, where crews are replacing ceiling grids and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

“A lot of work’s been going on there, so we’re fairly happy with that,” said Steve Tobias, the district’s director of buildings and grounds. “I think we’ll be right where we need to be to move in.”

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