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How Graves County Schools is aiding disaster relief efforts

Liam Niemeyer

Graves County Schools is offering both its facilities and its faculty to the local community to help aid in the recovery efforts from last weekend’s devastating storms. All schools in the district will be closed until the start of next year as their buildings will be providing shelter for those in need of help and those delivering it.

“Right after the tornado, one of the first calls we received was the need for buses to transport people,” Graves County Schools Superintendent Matthew Madding said.

Madding said several bus drivers took the call right away to begin bussing displaced individuals on both Friday night and Saturday morning. Buses were used to help deliver injured individuals to the hospital and to transport inmates to surrounding counties from the Graves County Jail.

Madding said the need for buses is still an ongoing request and continues to field calls to organize their use.

Once the initial wave of needs was met, Madding said the focus went to the families, the students and the faculty of Graves County Schools. Madding held an emergency meeting with school faculty on Sunday to discuss the plan moving forward.

For Graves County High School Principal Alison Gregory, her job since Sunday’s meeting has been trying to assess the current situation of both students and faculty at the high school.

“So, my biggest focus as a principal after our Sunday meeting was getting systems in place and structures in place for us to make sure we contact every single student and staff member, and touch base with and make sure their needs are met,” Gregory said.

Gregory said she’s created a landing page for staff to inform families about the resources available to them, locations they can seek assistance from, and where to find much-needed items.

Gregory said the lack of power at the high school is limiting her ability to organize people and resources efficiently.

“None of us are working out of the high school. We’re out in the community which I think is good,” she said.

Gregory said that her team was able to contact every student that attended Graves County High School but lived outside of the district boundaries, like in Mayfield, which she considers a huge accomplishment.

Graves County Schools are offering up four of its elementary schools as places for those in need to receive a hot meal at both breakfast and lunch. Fancy Farm, Sedalia, Symsonia, and Wingo Elementary will be open from 7 to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for breakfast and lunch, respectively.

Madding said there’s been a constant stream of visitors. On Tuesday alone, they served over 500 meals to the community. He also said there is no shortage of volunteers.

“We have a lot of volunteers that are willing to come in,” Madding said. “Not just our food service people, our food service people have been great. But, we have other faculty and staff members and some students that are coming to take part.”

Madding said the service will continue to be sustained for as long as the community needs it.

Madding said while it’s uncertain what the community will look like three weeks from now, Graves County Schools still plan to reopen for instruction on Jan. 3 next year while still supporting the community.

“What we are working towards is how can we offer our services and instruction to the absolute best of our ability on Jan. 3,” Madding said. “We are exploring a lot of avenues by which we are able to do that.”

He said instruction next year will likely look very different to adapt to the current situation.

This semester was going to be Gregory’s last as principal of Graves County High School. After recent events though, Gregory said she’s had a change of heart due to the disaster.

“I feel terrible,” Gregory said “I do not want to leave at this point.”

Gregory said she was moving to a position with the Kentucky Department of Education, and the state department is giving her more time to finish affairs at the high school before moving to the new position.

Zacharie Lamb is a music major at Murray State University and is a Graves County native.
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