SHAWNEE, Okla. (KFOR) – Classes were canceled Thursday at Shawnee Public Schools and Oklahoma Baptist University as they recover from significant tornado damage.
“It’s been grueling in the sense of the extensive damage,” said OBU President Dr. Heath Thomas. “This is the most significant natural disaster in the history of OBU. That’s 113 years.”
As a powerful tornado ripped through Shawnee Wednesday, two of the university’s most iconic buildings took direct hits: Raley Chapel and Shawnee Hall, the campus’ oldest academic building.
“It was devastated,” Thomas said of Shawnee Hall. “I can’t put it any other way.”
He reported that some students in the dorms were displaced, but thankfully no one was hurt.
“Buildings can be rebuilt,” he said. “The blessing that we have is there were no lives lost. There were no injuries.”
OBU has canceled classes for the time being as they continue to assess damage. They have no estimate yet of the cost of damage sustained by the university.
Meanwhile, Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace reported feeling “tired” from the hecticness.
“We’ll have to rebuild,” she said. “But I feel hopeful.”
They have no estimate of how much damage they have.
“Our transportation building had substantial damage,” she said. “Every bus has been damaged except for four. So, we kind of have to assess, how can we run routes? How can we get kids to school.”
Other school districts have put out a helping hand, though.
“We’ve had lots of superintendents and folks reach out and say, ‘hey if you need a school bus, if you need anything, please let us know,'” she shared.
The destruction is district wide. Grace explained that their alternative education building was demolished and their wrestling center, The Stucker Center, was greatly damaged with a large part of the roof ripped off. Even the press box at the football field was destroyed.
Grace also reported that all but one building in the district is without electricity.
Classes were canceled Thursday and Friday.
“We don’t want to put staff and students back in them until we assess the structural integrity of those buildings,” Grace explained.
She expressed the possibility of the district canceling classes for upwards of another school week if they remain in the assessment phase of post-tornado recovery.
OBU has also canceled classes for Friday.