DALLAS - The Dallas ISD superintendent has been candid that one of the biggest challenges since Sunday has been relocating 1,800 teenagers from Northwest Dallas 10 miles away to West Dallas.
What was once the Thomas Edison Learning Center is now the new home for Thomas Jefferson High School.
“We're all just making it work,” said teacher Yvonne Duque. “Everyone is a problem solver.”
While getting back to class is clearly healing for students who just had their high school home ripped away by an EF-3 tornado, the emotional toll can't be ignored.
“Many of these kids are refugees from all over the world. Their first taste of America is going to Thomas Jefferson,” said Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa. “Then all of a sudden, we say we're going to move you another 9-10 miles. Those kids showed up. The teachers went and made connections with them to make sure they showed up.”
The challenge is now to make sure they keep showing up.
Tonya Johnson, a counselor at Thomas Jefferson, is among the staff members who went out into the community Tuesday to tell students about their new location.
“They saw we cared enough to be out there,” she said.
Johnson’s office stands out in the school with still mostly bare walls because it is decorated for Halloween.
About 1,500 students made it to the second day of school at the former learning center. That was more than Wednesday. But there are 400 other students that counselors are working to connect with to encourage them not to quit.
Arlethia Davis counsels the Thomas Jefferson seniors. She says staff members are also working to help each other out.
“You still have to focus on the final goal: obtaining graduation, college, military or workforce,” she said. “We’re doing what we can to. I don't want to say cope, but make sure we're okay and students are okay.”
One way to do that will be to carry on with homecoming, even though it's at a different home.
“We're trying to keep it as close to the same as possible,” Jefferson said.
The counselors say that the district just recently provided crisis training for a situation just like this. They just weren't expecting to actually need it.