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Students return to Kathleen Middle School after EF-2 tornado damaged the building

Crisis teams will be in place to help students and staff transition back into class.

A little more than a week after an EF-2 tornado heavily damaged a local middle school, students returned to class on Monday.

Part of the roof was ripped off Kathleen Middle School in Polk County during a night of strong storms. Since then, crews have been working almost nonstop to repair the historic building and install temporary accommodations for the students.

Teachers and other staff members spent most of last week preparing for classes to resume. On Saturday, the school posted a message on Facebook reminding students to be prepared for some changes.

"Flexibility is the word of the week," the message said.

At least 12 portable classrooms are expected to be ready by Monday morning.

Stephanie Yocum, president of the Polk Education Association, previously told 10News she expects the return to campus to be an emotional one for staff and students.

“The destruction out there, in some of that area looks horrific so you don’t know who’s coming to school with what personal circumstances now,” said Yocum.

There are crisis teams in place to assist any members of the campus community who want someone to talk to.

“I mean for the classrooms that were completely devastated, I cried just knowing how much money and effort goes into those classrooms,” said Yocum, who used to be a teacher for 10 years, during an interview last week.

Insurance likely won’t cover the numerous personal items teachers had in their classrooms. Members of the Polk Education Association were on campus Friday morning to help teachers make the transition ahead of Monday's re-opening.

People wishing to send checks or money orders can mail them to the Polk Education Foundation: 1530 Shumate Drive, Bartow, FL 33830. Donations can also be made online.

Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd and Principal Sheila Gregory are expected to speak to the media on Monday morning, as the school begins to move forward.

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