OBITUARIES: Decatur | Shoals | Huntsville
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After tornadoes, the rebuilding begins
By Tom Smith -
Matt McKean/TimesDaily
Franklin County school buses are reflected in a mirror as work begins on Phil Campbell High School in the background. Phil Campbell and Hackleburg high schools are being rebuilt after the April 2011 tornadoes.

Franklin County Superintendent Gary Williams said there were more people than usual in the parking lot of Phil Campbell High School the past few mornings.

“They’re not students, but residents who are coming just to watch the work going on,” Williams said. “They were sitting out in the parking lot in their vehicles just watching.

“I guess some of them were wondering if it was ever going to happen.”

Construction crews arrived at the school Wednesday to begin the excavation work for the foundation of the new high school.

“We’ve done everything needed and jumped through every hurdle to get to this phase of the project,” Williams said. “It’s time for this to get started. I was as anxious as the residents to see something going on out there.”

Work began at the new Hackleburg High School in December.

“The crews stopped for Christmas but they are supposed to be back Monday and will big back up where they left off,” Hackleburg Principal John Hardin said.

“They were here a couple of weeks, and it was exciting to see what was happening. Everyone was looking forward to seeing that heavy machinery out there moving dirt,” he said.

The two schools were heavily damaged by the April 27, 2011, tornado that ripped through northwest Alabama. Students at the two schools have been using portable classrooms since the tornado hit.

The work will cost approximately $17 million for each school.

Hardin said bids for the construction was awarded in three phases.

“But we’re hoping that work on the school, football stadium, fieldhouse, and baseball and softball fields will be done at the same time,” he said.

School officials believe both projects will take at least 18 months to complete.

“Our goal is to be in school August 2014, but it all depends on the weather,” Williams said. “So, if not then, maybe by January 2015 at the latest.

“We’ve all been through so much. This is a sign of getting back to normal, if that’s possible,” he said.

“It’s something positive, and that’s something we all need after what we’ve been through,” Hardin said.

Williams said for the past few months, every day he was asked when construction was going to start.

“Now, they want to know when it’s going to be finished,” he said.

Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or

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