A derecho and a significant amount of recent rainfall were not enough to keep Central Lutheran School (CLS) from welcoming students back on Monday, albeit in a different manner than in previous years.

The school building in Newhall remains damaged and unable to host students for the 2020-21 year. Instead, approximately 180 students were split between three temporary new classroom settings as CLS continues to work to open their building later in the year. According to Frank Parris, Principal of CLS, preschools ages three to four are attending school in the basement of St. Stephen in Atkins, kindergarten through fourth grade at the old school building in Van Horne, and fifth through eighth grade at St. John Lutheran Church in Newhall.

“We are very appreciative to Benton Community and these churches for their help in allowing us to use their buildings,” Parris said. “Benton has created bus routes for our kids and their food service has provided meals for everyone. There have been a couple of bumps early, but we have worked through everything and everyone seemed to have a great first day on Monday.”

According to Parris, splitting the students between these buildings allows for proper social distancing. Benton has also provided buses for students for pick up and drop off to school each day. The current system was developed by administration and teachers, the latter who Parris stated wanted kids back in school rather than utilize online learning. This decision was also based on feedback from parents.

“It’s not ideal to have kids in three different places because we are a tight-knit family here at CLS,” Parris said. “As long as the kids are getting the Christian education, that’s what’s most important.”

In order to teach students, however, these makeshift classrooms needed desks, school supplies, books and technology. Thanks to local 80- 90 volunteers along with trucks and trailers, CLS was able to transfer their own items to the three locations in a matter of hours instead of days. Kaestner Seeds of Luzerne and Den/Ker Trucking of Atkins were among businesses who donated trucks and trailers for moving.

“When we put out a call for help, this is what happened,” Parris said. “It’s just awesome that everyone from parents to grandparents to community members. I really do want to stress my gratitude to everyone who helped move our stuff out.”

CLS and Benton will continue to partner in busing, housing and feeding students while the school building in Newhall undergoes repairs.

“We are happy it worked out to partner with Central Lutheran to provide them with classrooms for their students and staff due to the derecho storm,” Pam Ewell, Superintendent of Benton Community School District said. “We knew if we put our heads together, this solution was doable. We collaborate together regularly and enjoy the mission of educating all students. We are crossing our fingers for their safe return to classrooms after repairs are completed to their school.”

Parris hopes to have students back in CLS by the end of October, which is when the school will start their second quarter. Volleyball practices may take place in the large gym in the next week and CLS will host a brunch fundraiser to help with the cost of repairs.