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Hope is Alive at Clarkdale | Flooded out students see new school

12:41 AM, Aug 5, 2012   |    comments
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AUSTELL, Ga. -- The image became the icon of the destruction of the September 2009 floods: the sign of "Clarkdale Elementary" just barely viable over the flood waters.

PHOTOS | Clarkdale Elementary School Ribbon Cutting ceremony

Almost three years later, the students and teachers displaced by that flood will reunite under one roof. The new Clarkdale Elementary will open for class August 13. 11Alive News has been dedicated to bringing the community together to help the Clarkdale kids. Three reporters and the entire Help Desk participated in a special Saturday morning show at the new school.

Mrs. Marjorie's Opus

"Every day that I come into this building, I have a smile on my face that we really did make it," said Clarkdale Elementary Principal Majorie Bickerstaff. 

The journey through these new, shiny doors has been muddied with loss.

Eighty-seven families at Clarkdale lost their homes in the September 2009 floods that destroyed the school. But Principal Bickerstaff doesn't wallow. She dreams.

"You could mourn what happened or dwell on the negative," she said. "I'm not that kind of person."

Bickerstaff gave 11Alive's Julie Wolfe a tour of the new school. It includes reminders of the old Clarkdale everywhere.

"Do you ever think none of this would be here if none of that happened?" Julie asked her.

"You know, and I guess I am a real optimist, but sometimes things happen for a reason," Bickerstaff said. "And wow. Look what took place, but look what came out of it."

VIDEO | Mrs. Marjorie's Opus

The Drama of Clarkdale

Part of Marjorie's dream school is an amphitheatre that sits between Clarkdale Elementary and the neighboring Middle School. Clarkdale students used to do a musical every year, and they want to start it up again. They have enough drama in their own story to feed a stage.

VIDEO | If Clarkdale staged its own drama, what would it look like?

Personal Struggles

Clarkdale teachers and staff have remained fiercely upbeat and loyal to the school. Teacher of the year Terri Davis said she never considered giving up on the new school.

"Because it's my family," she said. "They've seen me at my highest highs and my lowest lows. We made it through this together."

The struggle to keep their own school community and then the wait to build it came as some faces huge battles of their own.

11Alive's Kids and Schools Reporter Donna Lowry shows us how another teacher drew courage from her resilient Clarkdale family.

VIDEO | Rising Above Cancer at Clarkdale

Help Desk Surprise

The 11Alive Help Desk asked Clarkdale Principal Marjorie Bickerstaff what the school wanted most but could not afford to get from its existing budget or though the PTA.

The answer revolved around a major garden project the school will undertake to teach students about plants, soil, energy sources, weather and photosynthesis.

Needed most was a large shed where students could store supplies, tools and soil.  Bickerstaff also named a small greenhouse as a priority. 11Alive's Help Desk enlisted the support of Home Depot.

The Help Desk also worked with School Box and Chick-fil-A to provide school supplies and breakfast for returning Clarkdale students Saturday morning just before the school dedication.

VIDEO | Clarkdale gets surprise help for teaching garden

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