DAWSON SPRINGS, Ky. (WEHT) For the first time since the December 10th tornado hit western Kentucky, Dawson Springs Independent School students were back in class.

The district is one of the latest to reopen after the tornado closed the schools for more than a month.

For more than a month, the schools here in Dawson Springs have been used as a resource center and, for one day, was a mini-Walmart. But now that the students are returning to class, it marks another step as Dawson Springs tries to return to normal.

From the cafeteria to the classroom, the students returned more than five weeks after the tornado left a trail of damage through town.

“I wanted to see them, talk to them and know they are mentally O.K,” said Lisa Cotton, who teaches at Dawson Springs Elementary, where her two kids attend. She said it was a relief and blessing to be back, but also challenging.

“It’s hard to get your minds focused back into school when you’ve got so many other things, home wise, going through your head. This has been a really good thing. I think it’s been a good for all our children for all our students to have normalcy again,” she said.

Students lost three weeks of school because of the tornado. The closure also happened during their two week holiday break. Elementary School Principal Jennifer Ward says nearly all students came back, but some are still processing what they went through.

“A lot of times our kids just want to talk, so having someone that they trust and are comfortable with, that makes all the difference in the world,” she said.

Extra counselors are brought in along with rescue dogs from North Carolina to comfort students. A local cab company and school workers are making sure those displaced make it back to school.

“We have teachers that are driving some of the school related vehicles to pick up kids in Providence and other areas of Crittenden County and Caldwell County, just to make sure they can get back to the school,” said Todd Marshall, principal at Dawson Springs Jr./Sr. High School.

“Dawson will take care of it. Our community will take care of it,” added Cotton.

The school day here has been extended by 20 minutes, which school officials say not only allows them to make up for time lost because of the tornado, but also allows them to end the school year on its original date of May 20th.

(This story was originally published on January 18, 2022)