Superintendent: Students will not return to damaged Fultondale HS; new school to open in 2023

What's Next For Fultondale High School

FULTONDALE, Ala. (WBRC) - UPDATE: Jefferson County Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin released an updated timeline Friday, February 12, for Fultondale High School students and an update on the progress of the new Fultondale High School.

Fultondale High School was heavily damaged in the tornado on January 25, 2021.

Timeline:

  • All Fultondale High School Students will remain on remote learning until at least March 1, 2021.
  • On or before March 1st we will provide you more of a timeline as to when in-person instruction will resume.
  • We hope to be able to resume in-person instruction at the current Warrior Elementary campus no later than March 29th, which is also the start of the fourth 9 Weeks.
  • The New Fultondale High School is expected to be completed by March 2023.  This project was already approved and in the works before the Tornado.

ORIGINAL: Jefferson County Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin said Wednesday on Good Day Alabama that Fultondale High School students will not return to the school for the remainder of this school year or next after it was heavily damaged during Monday’s deadly tornado.

Dr. Gonsoulin noted the school board has already approved and is in the process of Fultondale having a new high school built, which is a plan that will continue on track. He said a bid has been accepted and will continue in about 45 days.

“We just want to make sure at this particular time things like food and shelter are taken care of,” Dr. Gonsoulin said.

The plan for the current building prior to Monday’s storm was to renovate it to become the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate (JCIB) School.

Dr. Gonsoulin said a plan will be released Friday for what Jefferson County will do until Spring Break.

“We are trying to address their immediate needs and to reassure them we’re there to support them and their children academically,” Dr. Gonsoulin said.

While the system works through the difficult time, it is also mourning the death of 14-year-old fresh Elliot Hernandez. Dr. Gonsoulin said he spoke with family members Tuesday evening and Elliot’s father is still hospitalized but his mother has been released.

Dr. Gonsoulin told Good Day Alabama that he has also spoken with administrators and teachers about Elliot.

“He will be greatly missed. As they spoke to me about the type of person -- not only a student, but the type of person he was -- he was very approachable, involved in the schools, kind, a good student, a good person,” he said. “He’s going to be missed. That’s one of the things we’re going to have to deal with as a JeffCo Ed. family.”

The removal of debris at Fultondale High School started Tuesday morning.

The school’s roof was damaged and debris was tossed all over the campus from trees, limbs and containers. Survey crews with the National Weather Service said the preliminary damage survey results indicate EF-3 tornado damage with peak winds of 150 mph and a damage path of 9.5 miles.

Businesses around the school, including a storage and U-Haul business, were also damaged.

Commissioner Joe Knight says officials will need to find a new location for the 650 students who were learning in-person to attend school.

WBRC SkyTracker: Damage at Fultondale High School
Damage at Fultondale High School
Damage at Fultondale High School (Source: Jefferson Co. Schools)
Damage at Fultondale High School
Damage at Fultondale High School (Source: Jefferson Co. Schools)
Damage at Fultondale High School
Damage at Fultondale High School (Source: Jefferson Co. Schools)
Fultondale HS damaged significantly by tornado

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