CAMDEN, S.C. — Students and faculty of North Central High School returned for the first day of class on Wednesday, after a tornado ripped through the school’s campus over the weekend.

All of the nearly 500 students that attend the school are now being housed at the school district’s former technology training center in Camden.

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Described by many as a “new normal,” students and staff not only had to begin a new semester, but also learn how to navigate a new campus.

“This is my new home. I’ll have about 20 to 25 students in one class, but we’ll make due with what we got,” Michael Grisby, a social studies teacher and varsity softball coach at North Central, said.

Michael Grigsby
Michael Grigsby, a social studies teacher at North Central, prepares for class.
Kayland Hagwood

He considered what he might say to students as he prepared for them to arrive.

“I’m going to tell them exactly how I feel…. This is only a temporary setback. Whatever the tornado damaged, it didn’t damage our family.”

His spirit of resilience was mirrored throughout classrooms across the campus, with many teachers sharing encouraging words to students during their introductions.

White board at North Central High's temporary campus
A teacher writes "we will get through this trial" on a white board for students of tornado-damaged North Central to see.
Kayland Hagwood

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Star Shaw is a senior at the school. With graduation approaching, she’s fearful she won’t be able to return.

“When I first heard about it, I cried and I was devastated about the whole situation,” Shaw said. “Now, we have to make this place our home…. I think it will work throughout the year… and we can make it a place where it feels like home.”

Despite the change in location, each teacher had their own classroom and there were plenty of guides to help students find their way.

North Central Band director speaks to students
North Central Band Director Jonas Nix speaks to students.
Kayland Hagwood

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There was also a common-space for lunch set-up in one of the buildings. 

Lunch at temporary North Central campus.
Lunch at temporary North Central campus.
Kayland Hagwood

Community donations also came in handy, as teachers were able to stop by a supply closet filled with items to stock their classrooms.

Superintendent Shane Robbins said the district is still uncertain about what the future holds for the old North Central campus, but they’re hoping to at least have the football stadium repaired so that seniors can have graduation on site this semester.

They are still seeking donations. If you would like to help, visit kcsdschools.net/recovery .