ALTO — The Alto Independent School District held a special Family Fun Night on Thursday to usher in the new school year.
Included in the evening's events was “Meet the Teacher,” with the night ending at Cam'Ron Matthews Field where student-athletes representing all the fall sports were introduced to fans and supporters during the annual “Meet the Jackets” festivities.
The “Meet the Teacher” portion of the event not only gave students and parents a chance to visit with the respective educators, but to get a glimpse inside the new classrooms at the new high school campus.
A tornado struck the Alto ISD campus on April 13, and among the vast amount of damage was the loss of the high school building, gymnasium and baseball complex.
Since springtime, school officials have been hard at work at securing temporary buildings to replace the classrooms that were destroyed, and getting those structures fully converted into classrooms.
“We are getting through everything, day by day,” Alto High School principal Shanequa Redd-Dorsey said. “It has been challenging, but our kids are what has been getting us through this.”
Redd-Dorsey was busy Thursday taking care of last minute details, welcoming students back and reassuring parents that everything is under control.
Redd-Dorsey's warm smile, reassuring hug, or having the answer to a question seemed to work wonders with the students and parents.
“Our high school motto is 'Challenge Accepted',” Redd-Dorsey said. “And that is what everyone has been doing here.”
Even though the tornado caused much grief in Alto, according to senior Jakayla Johnson, there was at least one upside that came from the tragedy.
“It was sad to see what the tornado did to our school,” she said. “But in the end, the seniors came together as one to help each other and to also go out and help others in the community. Doing that has brought us closer as a class.”
The cluster of portable buildings that will serve as the high school classrooms for what is estimated to be at least two school terms are situated in front of the football stadium, on the south side of the main entrance as you enter the school district complex coming off of U.S. Highway 69.
Thursday was the first time that many people were able to scope out the interior of the new facilities.
A common comment from students, and even a few of the teachers, when asked for a review of the new classrooms was, “they are really nice … even bigger and better than our old classrooms.”
“The new buildings are nice,” Johnson said, shortly after she had met her teachers. “We are very thankful for those that have donated (some of the buildings).”
Arturo Soto, who teaches chemistry and Spanish, said he was surprised at how much work has been done and how functional the new classrooms are.
He continued by putting everything into perspective.
“It is a change of scenery for our high school students, but when school opens (Monday) it will be time to get down to business just like any other year,” he said.
The entire Alto community has continued to rally around its school district, doing whatever is needed to help return things to a sense of normalcy.
Family Fun Night, was made possible by the Alto Booster Club, A. Frank Smith UMC, Alto Missionary Baptist Church, Cold Springs Methodist Church. First Baptist Alto, Hilltop Baptist Church and BSN Sports.
“BSN Sports has helped us so much,” Alto Booster Club representative Jason Duplichain said. “They have donated 500 t-shirts that we are selling for $5 each and they have donated $15,000 worth of wind screens for the stadium.”
Out on the softball field and adjacent area, colorful bounce houses, a dunking booth and inflatable slides were set up for the younger children.
Sno cones, cotton candy, assorted refreshments, food trucks and music provided by an area radio station made for a relaxing atmosphere for all.
“This really means a lot to me and to the community,” Regina Morgan, an Alto parent, said. “That tornado really put a damper on our town, and it has been depressing. But today we all were able to come out here with the kids and let loose. My son is 4-years old and he has been worried about going to school because he associates school with the tornado. So, this has really helped in letting him know that everything is going to be alright at school now.”