Canadian Valley Tech: Determined
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Show 1716: Canadian Valley Tech: Determined
Air Date: April 16, 2017
Rob McClendon: Because the way the El Reno tornado developed, it trapped storm chasers inside, killing four and injuring others, and left the Canadian Valley Technology Center in ruins.
Larry Fisher: It started raining like crazy. I mean it was pouring down and there was water. When we come out of there, there was water running, probably ankle deep inside the school.
Bill Bradley: I was sending text messages to Neal, and I finally get a text message back, and that text said that everybody is OK, but the school has suffered damage.
Greg Winters: It was huge floods, 8, 10 inches of rain. You couldn’t hardly get to this place from here I live. So I didn’t get here until about two hours after the storm.
Fisher: I walked back toward the classroom where I was teaching. I still didn’t know what the devastation that there was until I opened. I was going to open the door, and the walls was laying down, I was standing on the door.
Gayla Lutts: Really couldn’t see a whole lot. It was dark and it was raining and power lines were down everywhere. And you know, you’re walking in water halfway up your leg.
Bradley: No electricity at the school. I could see the school was damaged pretty bad. It was the next morning before I saw the full extent of it.
George Fina: A lifetime on the fire department, and I’ve seen some pretty bad stuff. But I don’t think that any of us realized until we walked on this campus how bad this place was.
Charlotte Wakefield: You can’t hardly describe it. It’s a part of your life, and a part of what you do. And when you see something like that, it’s kind of overwhelming.
Cary DeHart: Trees just completely gone or nothing left on there. Grass was sucked out of the ground. The big propeller blade had been lifted off the ground, and stuck into the daycare center. That was quite a site. The maintenance building was flattened. The other buildings, from a distance may not look too damaged, but when you walk through them you’d see that walls are about to fall over. This tornado took out everything. And the campus here just happened to be in its path.
Fina: You feel like something was stolen from you, and you want to get back. And I think that’s where we were at. I think that’s where we were at.
Lutts: It was just a building, you know. We only lost a building. No one was injured. It just felt like it was easier for me to relate to the human side yet have an awareness that it really is just a building, and we’re going to be OK.
Winters: Tech centers in Oklahoma are schools of choice. People choose to come and take part in our programs. This district had been running for 43 years. It had been here a long time.
Marc Belew: All of our instructors come from industry. All of our instructors have made their living doing what they teach.
Winters: If we’d had to mothball programs, shut programs down, lay off great teachers, it would have been devastating.
Belew: I spent 18 years in the machining industry before I started teaching. So we take the skill that we learned, and we try to pass that on to the students to provide them with a skill that they can make a living with and make money and have a future.
Winters: The two things that I knew that our folks were really concerned about was the fact about their job.
Belew: The first few days after the tornado were obviously uncertain. You know, we all wondered what was going to happen, you know, that the school was destroyed, we didn’t have a place to teach.
Winters: And from the student perspective, you know, do I have a school to go to?
Jacob Manuel: I was really worried; I’m not going to lie. I didn’t know what was going to become of my program.
Mary Duford: And I was just like shocked and wondering if, what was going to happen with everything.
Winters: Saturday morning when the TV cameras started rolling, and everybody wanted interviews, and I made two statements, that was nobody loses their job, and school starts August the 15. That set the bar pretty high.
Lutts: Basically what that meant is, go get it done, figure out how to get it done.
Winters: But we had some other areas of the operation, the business side of the operation that I thought was critical. We needed to get the daycare center back up and running.
Deborah White: We were a publicly licensed child development center, just like any other center, although we are housed in a school and used as a training lab for students who are enrolled in early care and education, because the families we serve are depending on care so that they can go to work every day.
Erin Dickey: After the tornado hit, I went into immediate panic. Oh my gosh, I’m not going to have school next year.
Lutts: When Dr. Winters had said, you have one week to get the daycare center up and running, one of those, this seems like an impossible task. How on earth are we going to make this happen? We had an emergency board meeting on Sunday. The cosmetology teacher at the time came in and she said, “I know you’re looking for a place to have daycare,” and she said, “I know the perfect place.” And I said, “Oh, where?” Church of Christ south on Tenth Street in Yukon. And I said, “Oh, is that where you go to church?” And she said, “No.” And I said, “But you know somebody who does.” “No, I just drove by there, and I know that it’s a good place for us to have daycare.”
White: It was the first place we went, and I went in, and it was dark, on a Sunday afternoon. The youth minister, Gene Newberry, was there, he said, “Can I help you?” And I said, “Yes, you can. I’m from the school that blew away in the tornado on Friday, and we are looking for a place to have class.” And he said, “OK!” immediately, and I said, “Oh gosh, I need to explain to you what that means.” He’s like, “No big deal! We’ll use you as a mission project.”
Winters: They had just done a remodel project at the church. They had not permitted it for daycare center or any of that kind of stuff.
Lutts: We had gone through five days of getting everything that we needed so that we could get it ready, but we still didn’t have occupancy.
Fina: I was at a firefighters convention in Tulsa. So we were in a room talking and I got a call from Dr.. Winters, and he said, “I’m really in a bind.”
Winters: I said, “George, we’re having a heck of a time getting a fire inspection, and I don’t know what to do. I didn’t know who else to call.
Fina: We can’t get this thing inspected for quite a while, and if we don’t we can’t open up as soon as we need to.” I said, “Well, how about talking to the boss?” I said she’s standing right here. And the fire marshal from Oklahoma City was there, and I said I need you to talk to Dr.. Winters and just handed her the phone.
Winters: Within the hour, we had a fire inspector from the city of Oklahoma City come out and allowed us to move stuff in the next day and over the weekend and start daycare Monday morning.
Dickey: When I found out they were opening up at Church of Christ, I was like, yea, I still have a school to go to and this is going to be change, and it’s going to be amazing, and I’m going to be learning. And as a future teacher that was amazing because you see your teachers being flexible in a completely different environment than what they’re used to.
Bradley: Dr. Winters tasked me with getting ahold of our school district, getting everything put together to have an emergency board meeting as quickly as possible. So we started. OK we’re going to have school, we’ve got to have a place to have school. So we started tossing out different locations.
Lutts: We started kind of making those hard decisions. OK, where are we going to have school? How are we going to move all of those technical programs?
Bradley: And from that meeting, the John Holt Auto Dealership was proposed.
Lutts: By Monday morning, Dr.. Winters, John Holt, the leadership team had a handshake agreement that we were going to move into that facility and have school. There was a lot of little things that had to be accomplished before we could have school there, but we got everybody on board that needed to be on board to help us accomplish that mission.
Manuel: Yeah, I was surprised you know at how fast they were able to move everything over here.
Duford: I was a little nervous on whether or not school would be back up and running, but it was impressive because they did it in such a short period of time and really took into consideration all that we were going to need.
Manuel: I think we’d have to agree, well, you know, we’d make do with what we have.
Duford: We all still got to learn what we needed to learn and got through exactly what we needed in order to pass those final tests at the end of the year.