Michigan Avenue Elementary School and Blue Springs Elementary School are both too damaged for students to return to the buildings this year.
The Bradley County Board of Education held an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the damage and plans for moving forward.
Students and staff from Blue Springs will finish the year utilizing Waterville Elementary School.
Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said students will stay with the same teacher, and the temporary merger will be possible by using every available space as a classroom.
McDaniel said Waterville Community Elementary School Principal Charlene Cofer and Blue Springs Principal Angela Lawson have developed a plan to make the sharing a success.
“They feel very comfortable with the plan, and I feel confident in their decision that if they say they can do it, they can do it,” McDaniel said.
The school system has received offers from many community churches and organizations to move the schools to their locations.
McDaniel said First Baptist offered their 30-classroom facility to the system. The classrooms are designed to be a school, and could accommodate the 450 Michigan Avenue students. McDaniel said this would be the best and easiest plan for the students.
At Michigan Avenue most of the damage was to the roof of the gym. Half of the roof and a waterproofing rubber layer was torn off by the storms. The school also has some water damage. All the electrical lines leading to the building have been destroyed.
The damage at Blue Springs was more widespread, affecting classrooms and the cafeteria. The roof was severely damaged in places and windows in the cafeteria were blown out. The school also has some water damage.
Lawson said all the school’s yearbooks for this year were also destroyed.
Crews have been cleaning up and salvaging what they can.
According to Lawson, student files were recovered. What can be salvaged is being boxed up and catalogued for insurance purposes.
Bradley County Schools joins with other school systems to be self-insured. The insurance company has already started assessing the damage and making estimates of what it will cost to repair the schools.
Under this insurance, the first $100,000 per school is covered. McDaniel said the insurance company will also handle cleanup and salvage at Blue Springs.
Parents and community members have also contributed to cleanup outside at Michigan Avenue McDaniel said the school system also has an insurance rider with Traveler’s Insurance that would cover expenses above that.
Chairman Troy Weathers said the board of education should look into options other than just fixing the building as a long-term solution for Blue Springs. The elementary school is one of the oldest in the system and has been fixed once before after tornado damage.
Taking this week off would add another week to the school year unless the school system receives special permission from the state. A request has been sent to Kevin Huffman, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, to have this week off count as emergency days, and not be required to be made up. State Rep. Kevin Brooks, State Rep. Eric Watson and State Sen. Mike Bell have contacted the commissioner asking him to grant the request, according to McDaniel. If this request is denied, Watson has said he is prepared to represent legislation in the State House of Representatives to forgive these days for the system, according to Weathers.
There are three weeks left in the school year, and McDaniel said adding an additional week to the school year would be difficult.
A final decision about when schools will reopen has not been made. Safety is the main concern, according to McDaniel. He also said having the electricity working in all of the schools would be a determining factor.
McDaniel said it is important that families have a chance to concentrate on putting their lives back together.
Some Bradley County School activities will continue despite the school system being closed. McDaniel said he is leaving the decision about extracurricular events such as athletics up to the principal at each school.
Scheduled graduation ceremonies have not changed.