WYNNE, Ark. – With Arkansas approaching the one-month mark since tornadoes barreled through the state, one of the hardest hit areas was the City of Wynne.
In the city, the high school was severely damaged, and officials said that made it a total loss. Despite that, school officials say they were able to continue the school year and recover thanks to the hundreds of people supporting them.
An EF-3 tornado devastated many homes and businesses, including the high school in Wynne on March 31. Now large parts of the school are being torn down and scraped away.
However, Principal Dusty Meek said with the help of hundreds of volunteers, along with city and state leaders, they were able to move into the East Arkansas Community College building only six days after the tornado, so no student would have to go virtual.
“We didn’t want to do that we saw through covid the need to have those relationships and personal contacts. We needed to heal together,” Meek said. “We don’t have anything from the high school in this building. It’s all furnished through the EACC or the state of Arkansas through what they provided us.”
High school senior Payton Sisk said she was shocked they returned so soon.
“I thought we were going to cut it and we weren’t going to come back,” Sisk said.
Meek said they have over 800 high school students and although the EACC building is one of the larger ones in town, they still have to alternate days students have class in the building because of the capacity.
Despite the challenges, Meek said all of their sports and activities are back up and running for students. They also were able to have a new venue for their prom at a barn venue outside of town since the original prom space was at the EACC building they are currently using for school.
Sisk said she had a wonderful time at the prom.
“It was probably the best prom we would have had,” Sisk said.
However, one tradition that has changed will be where they have their graduation since they cannot use the football field since it was damaged by the twister.
“That’s really the only part we’re going to miss a lot is being able to walk across our football field because that’s what every class looks forward too,” said Sisk.
Sisk says although they’re not having it on the football field. She believes school officials will still make it special at the new location which is at an arena in Jonesboro.
Meek said hundreds of people came by the high school the day after the tornado to try and salvage what they could. He said the first thing he checked own was cherished items that would be used for graduation in June.
“My number one thing was get the diplomas,” Meek said.
Meek said all of the diplomas were recovered, something that Sisk said made her happy.
Sisk says the recovery efforts have made her senior year memorable and made her proud to be a part of a strong community like Wynne.
“I feel like it brought my community and our school closer together and it brought me and my friends closer together throughout all of it,” Sisk said.
Meek said there has been talk of a new building for students next school year and they are still assessing what they can do with the high school’s property.