- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

FAIRFIELD, Neb. (AP) - A rural Nebraska high school that was damaged in a storm last week has been cleared for use, but many repairs will be needed.

The Hastings Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1ZUeJJZ ) the Sandy Creek school near Fairfield has been declared structurally sound after experts toured the building.

The school was damaged May 9 when severe thunderstorms moved through the area. The National Weather Service says a tornado with maximum winds of 85 mph was confirmed near the school.

Access to the south end of the building, including the library and classrooms for band, agriculture, industrial technology and art, was restricted for a couple days after the storm.

Superintendent Randall Gilson said the building is back in full use, but the school board will discuss repairs Monday.

Several windows were damaged on the high school building, an awning was destroyed and a ventilation unit was lifted off the roof and moved six feet away. A large tree out front also sustained heavy damage.

Several school vans and other vehicles in the parking lot also had windows broken during the storm.

“Most of the damage to the building appeared to be cosmetic,” Gilson said.

Most importantly, the students and staff members who were at the school were not hurt, Gilson said.

Shortly before the storm arrived, a group of high school students had returned from a field trip. Some other students were sitting in an outdoor courtyard on the east side of the building.

Gilson said the principal got all the remaining students and faculty into the auditorium to take shelter under the stage. Fortunately, that area was clear because all the chairs normally stored there had been set up for an elementary school music program.

“It was just good he was really on his toes and really thinking and got them under cover,” Gilson said.

The school board plans to discuss whether more storm shelters are needed.

“We got really lucky, I think,” he said.

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Information from: Hastings Tribune, https://www.hastingstribune.com

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