ATLANTIC, Iowa — After already dealing with COVID for over a year, the unusual had become the norm for Atlantic Middle School students - but a July 2021 fire devastated them further and left them unable to use their regular school.
"For a lot of the students at Atlantic, it just felt like another thing to add to the massive pile that we've been having to deal with," said Maggie McCurdy, a student who just finished 8th grade.
The fire put the middle school out of commission for an entire year, largely due to water damage that spread across as much as 85% of the interior.
Middle school students had their classes moved to Atlantic High School, the Cass County Educational Opportunity Center and even Iowa Western Community College last year. For some, those changes came with a bit of a silver lining.
"We got to practice a lot with their teams and their groups, and we got to be a part of their clubs, which were all opportunities that wouldn't have been available to us beforehand," McCurdy said.
Things are starting to get closer to normal. In July, superintendent Steve Barber told the Atlantic school board that they're working on getting furniture back inside classrooms.
"We're currently going through those particular pieces, as far as replacing classroom desks, tables, or whatever the case may be. We're hoping to have that done in the next week or so," Barber said.
That's good news for students. McCurdy will be starting high school when classes start up again, so she won't get to experience the re-opening. But that doesn't take away any of the excitement.
"That's super exciting, because it's not something that we thought was going to move so quickly, but it did. It worked on schedule, and it worked on time, and so I think it's amazing that they get to go back this year," she said.
Students won't have much longer before they're headed back to class—the first day of school at the original building is set for Aug. 23.