‘Not going to damage the spirit of Kathleen’: Principal addresses teachers after tornado damage at school

Polk County

KATHLEEN, Fla. (WFLA) – Despite having significant roof damage after a EF-2 tornado ripped through the area, Kathleen Middle School Principal Sheila Gregory wants teachers and faculty to continue to embrace a positive school spirit.

“The damage is just damage. It’s not anything that’s going to damage the spirit of Kathleen,” Gregory said Thursday morning in a meeting. “It’s not going to damage the instructional momentum that we’ve got going on here at Kathleen. And, it’s not going to diminish how we all feel working together.”

Kathleen Middle School has extended the cancellation of classes until Monday, Oct. 28.

Portable classrooms and bathrooms are being installed to accommodate students who attended class in the now-damaged classrooms. Lakeland Electric was at the school Thursday hooking up the portables to power.

Construction to replace the roof and other renovations could take more than a year, according to Polk County Public Schools.

A crisis team will be on hand Monday to help students adjust.

Horace Mann Insurance Co. helped coordinate lunch for the teachers Thursday as they went through their old classrooms and moved into new portable classrooms.

“It’s kind of like starting over for them,” said Joe Fisher, agency owner, Horace Mann Insurance Agency. “They’ve got the support of the community. It’s just been awesome. Local people have been stopping by all week, dropping stuff off and just hearing the stories of what the school’s meant to them, the building’s meant to them.”

School supply donations are being collected for Kathleen Middle School teachers.

Items can be dropped off at the Polk Education Association office at 730 East Davidson Street in Bartow or at the Horace Mann Insurance office at 5600 U.S. Highway 98 North in Lakeland.

Those wishing to send checks or money orders can mail them to the Polk Education Foundation: 1530 Shumate Drive, Bartow, FL 33830. Donations can also be made online at https://polkschoolsfl.com/pef/donate/.

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