Mississippi Schools Continue to Address Tornado Damage

By JASON MUNZ, Hattiesburg American | June 4, 2013

The lingering effects of the Feb. 10 tornado are still visible at the two Mississippi high school campuses that were hit the hardest.

Hattiesburg High and Oak Grove continue to pick up the pieces, and according to officials from both schools, headway is being made every day.

Willie Burton, director of maintenance at HHS, said the school district will open up for bids on June 5 for the work that needs to be done at Watkins Gymnasium. The school board’s next scheduled meeting is June 11.

“That’s just for the gymnasium,” Burton said. “(Repairs to the) football field are complete. They’re on it now, and using it. It’s complete.”

The Tiger football team, which lifts weights and works out inside Watkins Gymnasium, has been displaced until repairs to the building are complete. Weightlifting and workout equipment was recently re-located to the underside of the home seating structure at D.I. Patrick Stadium.

HHS head coach Tony Vance said it’s not an ideal situation, but he won’t let it adversely affect his players.

“We’re kind of homeless right now, but there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “We’re going to persevere through it and come out better because of it. Kids are resilient. Things worry adults a lot longer than they worry kids.”

Burton said there’s still some minor lighting work left to be done at D.I. Patrick Stadium.

“We still have to get the lights adjusted. We had the towers inspected and they all came back good. We just have to get them aimed and pointed, and it’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

Meanwhile, work has also begun at Oak Grove.

Lamar County Schools superintendent Ben Burnett said repairs to the lighting structures at both the football stadium and baseball field are underway.

“We’ve done some work in the last two board meetings,” he said. “Bleacher repair was recently approved for softball and football. One issue that will be addressed next is a new scoreboard on the football field.”

Burnett said work for the football and baseball field houses as well as the baseball field itself have not yet been bid out. He anticipates the baseball facilities will be ready in time for the 2014 season, and the football field house will be ready by August 2014.

“Obviously, we won’t have a football field house (for the 2013 season),” Burnett said. “And that will be a detriment. But we’ll just have to make do. We have two modular buildings and I guess we’ll utilize those somewhat for dressing for football games.”

The Warrior football team has moved its workout facility and locker room to a temporary building on Old Highway 11, less than a mile from the school. Burnett said the school district is renting the building, and it’s being paid for by insurance.

Burnett said when it comes to rebuilding the football field house the school district won’t have any money to add to the project other than what insurance money is paying for.

“(But) there is a fundraising effort by a group of dedicated supporters of the school,” he said. “Certainly if there’s money raised by this group to enhance what we can rebuild, we’ll be excited.”

While Burnett declined to comment further on the fundraising effort, in an interview on the NFL Network in February, Oak Grove offensive coordinator Brett Favre alluded to rebuilding bigger and better.

“We want to rebuild a facility that’s like no other,” Favre said. “That will take, obviously, time and money. We hope that it’s a facility when we have the track and things finished, that parents can come out and run with their kids and play volleyball with their kids. Maybe my expectations are too high, but that’s what I look for in the future.”

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