PHIL CAMPBELL, Ala. (WHNT) – Three years ago this upcoming weekend, an EF-5 tornado swept through the town of Phil Campbell killing several and destroying everything in it’s path, including Phil Campbell High School.
It’s a process that’s spanned three years and Franklin County Superintendent Gary Williams says with 75% of the project complete, they are reaching the home stretch in rebuilding the high school.
After bad weather in January and February slowed progress at the site, contractors are making up ground by working 7-days a week.
“The contractor told us last week that we might not be able to get in the first day it could be two or three weeks later,” explained Williams, “which is still 6 months earlier than what was projected.”
Superintendent Williams said they are working on alternative measures if the school is not ready by early August.
They need an alternate plan because the portable classrooms in use right now must be gone by the first of June to finish utility work to the new school.
It’s just one more hurdle for Williams to navigate through, “It was a very big struggle. Because, had we not obtained the FEMA and actually the Department of Finance to help us we would not have been able to build back Phil Campbell School.”
Williams believes the school stands as a testament to the resilience the residents of Franklin County have and the determination of wanting to rebuild.
However, Williams said he still gets emotional when walking through the new school.
“A lot of emotions run through your mind and your heart when you walk through there knowing that a bad event had to happen to get a new school and you wonder if it’s worth that. Probably not, because you can’t replace lives.”
And when students return to School Avenue, the lives lost on April 27, 2011 will never be forgotten.
The new $25-million Phil Campbell High School includes four safe rooms, designed to hold all of the students and faculty and keep them secure during a severe storm.
The project is being paid for through funds from FEMA and the Alabama Department of Finance.