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Students return to Mount Juliet school 1,000 days after tornado destroyed it

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MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (WSMV) – Families in Mount Juliet have been waiting a long time for the reopening of Stoner Creek Elementary School, and that wait finally came to an end on Monday.

It was an emotional day as students returned to their school for the first time in exactly 1,000 days. The school building was destroyed in the March 2020 tornado, and students have been learning in portable classrooms ever since.

The celebration started early Monday morning with everyone welcoming the community back to the building that was destroyed in the tornado. There was a large sign in front of the school for students to take first day of school photos in front of, and parents were invited inside to tour the building and see all the opportunities it will provide.

“We went through a couple of weeks without any electricity, any schooling, and then after we got through with that, we had COVID,” said grandparent Sharon Roberts. “This is great! I am so glad they finally got their class, their school back.”

“It’s kind of overwhelmed about how beautiful the interior is,” parent Ami Stewart said. “All the blue and yellow. It feels like home, which is great for the kids to have a place where they feel this is their school now.”

Principal Amanda Smith and her staff stood at the front door giving everyone hugs. The return brought some students to tears, while others yelled with joy walking into their new school. She said it’s been a tough journey since the tornado, but Monday was the celebration that marks the beginning of a new chapter.

“It all feels better than we could ever imagine,” Smith said. “To think that we can operate in the same hallways together, do a school day as normal. I am really looking forward to seeing some teachers and students who have never been in a real school to learn how we operate on a day-to-day basis, so super exciting.”

Smith said the new school was built to withstand another severe storm and bad tornado that could hit Mount Juliet. There is an entire wing with double concrete, windows that can withstand 150-mile-per-hour winds, a backup generator and water system. It’s designed to keep everyone in the school safe and help the community after a disaster.