GREENSBURG, Mo. - In the immediate aftermath of the tornado which leveled Greensburg May 4, 2007, prioritizing needs could be overwhelming.
Everything, it seemed, was a priority.
But one thing was clear - a community without a functional school system wasn't going to last very long.
Since the 2006-07 school year was nearly over, cancelling the final two weeks in Greensburg was a sound decision. But that left just more than 100 days before the 2007-08 year would begin.
"Obviously, we had to (erect) temporary facilities as quickly as we could," said Darin Headrick, Greensburg Unified School District 422 superintendent.
And although the district's insurance provided a majority of the financial need, eligible FEMA Public Assistance projects still accounted for nearly $5.3 million in approved federal funds for a variety of school projects.
"FEMA's money primarily filled the funding gap between insurance (coverage) and actual costs," Headrick said.
FEMA money helped pay for cleanup of old facilities, erection of temporary facilities, help for funding permanent replacements and other projects.
Remarkably, school opened on time Aug. 15.
Headrick said FEMA assistance even helped fund alternative "bus" routes, with rented vans to go outside normal district boundaries and transport Greensburg students from 20 to 30 miles away.
"We had so many students displaced," he said, "we had to run more bus routes."
He said FEMA assistance helped with renting vans and extra drivers' wages.
"It did what it needed to do," he said of the assistance for the extra routes. "The routes are going away, because people are making it back (into Greensburg)."
And although challenges lie ahead, Headrick said the community's school district has accomplished a lot with the help of a myriad of partners - including FEMA.
"We're seeing progress and maybe a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.