Tornado-damaged Shields Elementary reopens

It was more than just a new school year in the Red Oak ISD. It was the first day students are returning to Shields Elementary after it was severely damaged by a tornado.

The campus reopened on Monday after extensive work to repair damage from the December 26 tornado. It was so badly damaged that the students and staff had to move to a vacant junior high school for the spring semester.

An exterior wall which toppled during the storm raised questions about the quality of the building’s construction. Earlier this month, Red Oak ISD announced the district reached a $30,000 settlement with the building inspector who signed off on the construction last January.

An engineer hired by the district found that the original builder, Ratcliff Construction, did not properly secure the walls. But the case was settled with no admission of wrongdoing. Ratcliff also paid more than $160,000 for repairs done by a new contractor.

About eight months and $13 million dollars later, the campus is now open again with some safety upgrades and exciting technology.

Shatter-proof glass coatings and hurricane clips for HVA AC units were added to the building and go above and beyond what building codes require.

“We have a lot of new technology, Wi-Fi in every classroom, dry erase boards that cover the whole wall, interactive short throw projectors, lots of new fun things for our kids,” said Tiffany Munoz, a Shields Elementary teacher and alumni. “These kids are used to the technology, so we’re going to meet them where they’re at.”

Hundreds of volunteers helped teachers and administrators move in earlier this month to get everything ready.

The district is used the hashtag #ShieldsStrongerThanEver on social media to celebrate the first day.