COURTNEY — County school officials and students gathered on Wednesday for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new gymnasium at Courtney Elementary School. Dr. Todd Martin, Yadkin County Schools superintendent, said some of the steel for the reconstruction has been delivered and the project is scheduled to begin digging and pouring the footings this week.
“We are extremely pleased that the rebuilding of the Courtney Elementary gym is about to get underway,” Martin said. “It has been a long process to get to this point, but I believe that in the end it will be worth all the time and effort. I am excited for the students, faculty and staff at Courtney Elementary School and for the members of the Courtney community, because they are going to get a wonderful gym that should serve them well for years to come.”
The original gym was built in 1957. As it presently stands — and assuming everything goes as planned — the estimated completion date is Oct. 29.
The original school gym, which was built in 1957, was destroyed by an EF-2 tornado that touched down on May 24, 2017. According to the U.S. National Weather Service, wind speed was estimated at 125 miles per hour when the tornado touched down just after 4 p.m. The twister caused damage to multiple homes in the area in addition to demolishing the gym.
Around 35 students and staff were on the property at the time of tornado. Speaking to The Yadkin Ripple following the tornado last year, Martin said, “I cannot say enough about the job the principal did and the teachers and the after-school employees. Everybody got to shelter, kept the kids calm and everybody walked away unscathed.”
Martin called the event “traumatic” and said those there at the time were shaken up by the situation, but no one was injured.
“When you have something like that happen at a school and there are no injuries whatsoever, you count your blessings,” he added.
Principal Dr. Jed Cockrell was on campus at the time of storm last May.
“You always hear somebody say it sounds like a freight train coming and that’s exactly what it sounded like,” Cockrell said. He was near the main entrance to the school at the time of the tornado maintaining contact with a bus driver who was still on the route with two students aboard.
When ceiling tiles began to fall, Cockrell said he knew they were experiencing a major weather event. The entire episode lasted mere moments though, he said.
“It wasn’t until I stepped outside the building that I really saw how bad the damage was,” he added.
The new gym is expected to be completed by late October. The bleachers from the old gym were salvaged and well be incorporated in the new gymnasium Martin said. The new gym will be modeled very much like the old structure, he added.
“Our plan from the beginning has been for the new construction to look as much like the old gym as possible. The architects used the original plans from the 1950s to design the rebuild and to complete their plans. There isn’t an architect rendering of what the new gym will look like. However, it will be very similar to what was there before,” he said.
The old gym had wooden support beams, and the rebuild will include those same type of beams. The old gym had a tongue-and-groove ceiling and plans include the same type of ceiling for the new gym. “Our goal was to make the new gym as much like the old gym as possible,” said Martin.
“Some things won’t be exactly the same because, as with any new construction, we have to meet current building codes and ADA requirement. At the same time, I believe that people will be pleased once the gym is completed. The students will have a fantastic facility to use for physical education and ball games,” he said.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.