Students in tornado-ravaged Coal City return to school

COAL CITY, Ill. (WLS) -- Almost two months after a tornado ripped through Coal City, more than 2,100 students went back to class Friday morning.

PHOTOS: Tornado damage in Coal City, IL

There are still downed fences and debris, and the dugout at the high school's baseball field hasn't been rebuilt -all signs of the EF-3 tornado that ripped through nearly two months ago.

"It hasn't really felt like a summer. Everyone has just been rebuilding, getting everyone back to where they need to be, like, a helping summer. It's been crazy, but I'm ready to be back at school and see my friends," student Makenna Emerson said.

The June 22 tornado damaged nearly 900 properties throughout Coal City. Hundreds of residents were displaced, including 282 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Under federal law, these displaced students are considered homeless and entitled to free bus service. Arranging for them to come back to school however has been a challenge, with some 70 students spread out among 13 different communities.

"We have a couple of districts that are bringing buses of kids if we have enough. We have school vans that are coming. We have some parents that we're paying mileage to so they can drive kids to and from school," Supt. Ken Bugg said.

Classes let out Friday at 12:45 p.m. Teachers said they hope the beginning of the school year will go a long way to healing the community and getting students back to their normal routines.

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