MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nearly two years later, painful memories from the March 2020 tornadoes still swirl through Amanda Smith's mind. "It does bring a lot of emotions to that anniversary mark," said Smith, principal of Stoner Creek Elementary in Mt. Juliet. "For the longest time, we weren’t even allowed to get back here to the property with everything going on."
Everything except the gym was leveled by the tornado. Then came the pandemic. "The last two years, we’ve had to team up. So two teachers together with both of their class rosters in a tiny space. When the portables came that sort of lightened the load a little bit," said Smith.
Insurance delays and weather have made the rebuilding process longer than anyone anticipated. "Well, finally, this is the day we’ve been waiting for," said Smith.
At last, there's something exciting to see at the Stoner Creek campus. "Every time we drive by, somebody is excited about something because you can actually see progress happening on that fast-paced basis," she said.
If everything remains on schedule, the new Stoner Creek Elementary will open up this September. The $30 million project will not only restore the building, but it'll also be an expansion. "So our school will be bigger than what we had before. So that’s exciting. We’ll be able to hold up to 1,000 students," said Smith.
Even the surviving gymnasium will get a facelift once the new structure is completed. "Now it’ll be connected so we’ll just be able to go through our halls wherever and kids won’t have to come out to get to that," she said.
Principal Smith hopes the swirling bad memories of the storm will fade away the second the new school opens. "Everything about it will be shiny and new and it will all be Stoner Creek," she said. "Lots to look forward to."
West Wilson Middle School, just down the road from Stoner Creek, was also decimated by the tornado. According to Wilson County Schools, designs for the new complex are expected to be approved by the school board next month, and construction will begin shortly after in the late spring.