Cyclone Yasi destroys Tully High School
TULLY State High School will need to be rebuilt and thousands of students in the cyclone Yasi affected region face lengthy absences from their classrooms.
With rebuilding expected to take months, the 675 students at Tully High school may now need to be taught from temporary classrooms, or possibly relocated about 100km to Ingham.
But student Jessica Hunt, says heading back to class is low on her list of priorities, as she looks across trees stripped bare; her trampoline in the neighbour’s yard.
"I have no idea when we’ll be going back, it’s just crazy at the moment," she said.
"I’m just glad we got our roof, there was about nine of us hiding downstairs (during cyclone Yasi) and I was just cuddling my little brother.
"But then with the noise outside I just started bawling, I was freaking out."
Touring Tully yesterday, Premier Anna Bligh inspected the destruction, which has left Tully State High School virtually "unsalvageable".
"Preliminary assessments say it will basically need to be totally rebuilt," Ms Bligh said.
"So that will be very sad for this community.
"Schools are very precious places, they have a lot of memories but this one will rise from the ashes and be bigger and better than before."
Ms Bligh said initial estimates showed 854 buildings in the cyclone zone had been damaged, with 340 substantially.
Another 23 homes and businesses are also beyond repair.
In the face of all the bad news, some 300 students are expected to return to Tully State primary school for classes by Wednesday.
"The sooner we can get the kids back to school the better it will be for them," the school’s principal Jennifer Sloane said.
"Routine is the most powerful thing for them, it just sort of says things are all right, things are normal, even if it doesn’t look like it."
Yesterday, emergency service teams were ripping up carpet from battered buildings, sweeping away shards of glass and boarding up classroom windows.
"We’re going to try and get it as visibly good as possible to reduce the shock when kids come in and see their school where they have been for most of their lives," Mrs Sloane said.
With the prep year’s vege-table garden uprooted and a twisted metal fence curled around the school’s basketball court, Mrs Sloane points out a large fallen gum tree crushing four classrooms.
But the structural damage is just background to Mrs Sloane, whose attention is now turning to the task of healing the spirits of her school community.
"Even a couple years after Larry, if there was a storm you could see some of the children would actually tense up," she said.
"Parents need support too – they need to hold up even if they’re frail inside, because if they crash then the littlies will see."
Mrs Sloane said a team of counsellors would arrive from the first day back to school to help shoulder the concerns of students and staff.
Ms Bligh said any reconstruction at Tully State High School would be built to withstand a category 5 cyclone.
The following state schools remain closed until further notice: Babinda State School, Butchers Creek State School, Cardwell State School, Daintree State School, El Arish State School, Feluga State School, Flying Fish Point State School, Goondi State School, Innisfail East State School, Innisfail State College – Diverse Learning Centre, Innisfail State School, Innisfail State College, Julatten State School, Kennedy State School, Lower Tully State School, McDonnell Creek State School, Mena Creek State School, Mirriwinni State School, Mission Beach State School, Moresby State School, Mount Garnet State School, Mourilyan State School, Mundoo State School, Murray River Upper State School, Palmerston East State School, Silkwood State School, South Johnstone State School, Tully State High School, Tully State School, and Wonga Beach State School.
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Hard lesson: Tully State school principal Jennifer Sloane outside her damaged school. This fallen gum tree hit four classrooms. Picture: TOM LEE