Breaking News
More () »

A tornado destroyed their campus. Then, Thomas Jefferson staff turned a building into a school in 24 hours

Teachers, staff, and work crews arrived early Tuesday to prepare Thomas Edison Junior High into the new home of Thomas Jefferson High School.

DALLAS, Texas — Teachers and staff from Thomas Jefferson High School worked late into the night Tuesday, as they turned an empty building into their new home. 

The 11th-hour attitude is the product of a Sunday night tornado that badly damaged the Thomas Jefferson High School campus, along with Cary Middle School and Walnut Hill Elementary. 

The damage at Thomas Jefferson High School is so bad, students may not step back onto campus for at least a year. 

District officials said Monday that Walnut Hill Elementary and Cary Middle School are expected to be a total loss. 

Students from Cary are being reassigned to either Benjamin Franklin Middle School or Francisco Medrano Middle School. 

Walnut Hill students will be heading to Tom Field Elementary for the remainder of the year. 

But Thomas Jefferson High students are heading to a building that hasn't housed students for awhile. 

The Thomas Edison Junior High has primarily been a storage facility for DISD as of late, housing student records.  

On Monday, the district informed Thomas Jefferson High School teachers and staff that it needed to be cleaned out and ready to go for students to resume class Wednesday morning. 

That means bringing in tables, chairs, setting up classrooms and moving all of those records out within 24-hours. 

"Nobody has time to be overwhelmed," Principal Sandi Massey said. "We just have to get the work done."

A number of rooms at Thomas Edison Junior High were filled with dozens of boxes and filing cabinets. Each had to be removed by Wednesday morning.

That work included DISD crews hauling off dozens of boxes and heavy filing cabinets containing student records. 

A massive challenge that took most of the day. In the afternoon, some teachers were still waiting to set their classrooms up because they couldn't even walk around in them. 

"We're not sure where they are all going, my concern is that it just goes away," Massey said with a laugh. "I've been here since about 6 a.m." 

Teachers like Erika James are working overtime too. She got to the school early to work on her room so English 4 students would be ready to go. 

"As long as the school is open, I'll be in here," James said. "Any normalcy that I can give my kids is what we're going to do." 

A room at Thomas Edison after teachers scrambled to spruce it up for students.

Massey said that 1,880 kids have to fit into 80 rooms. She also said that seven teachers don't have rooms and will be 'floating' for the moment. That means, that they will have to share a space with another teacher. 

But Massey hopes that students embrace the adversity. 

"This is something that will be invaluable to them in their life, to say that they stuck it out and overcame," Massey said. "This isn't about a building, this is about a body of students that deserve something amazing." 

Crews unload chairs that will be used inside Thomas Edison.

Start times for other schools were still being debated for Wednesday by DISD. 

In an e-mail sent to WFAA, the district said: 

"A decision will be made by 4 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23 on whether the following campuses will reopen for students that day:

  • Dealey Montessori
  • Franklin Middle School
  • Hillcrest High School
  • Kramer Elementary School
  • Jose “Joe” May Elementary School
  • Medrano Middle School

Students from Cary Middle School have been assigned to Franklin and Medrano middle schools. A decision will be made by 4 a.m. on whether Franklin and Medrano are open tomorrow."

To see changes made to transportation routes, go here.

The district will hold a press conference at 1 PM Wednesday regarding damage to campuses and long-term solutions. 

RELATED: 9 tornadoes confirmed from Sunday's storms in North Texas

Before You Leave, Check This Out