June 14, 2013

El Reno Canadian Valley still recovering after twister

Tiffany Martinez
The Express-Star


Nearly three weeks to the day, Canadian Valley Technology Center (CVTC) students and staff continue a process of recovery after an EF-5 struck their El Reno campus causing irreparable damage. 

The series of storms striking Oklahoma this spring has been undoubtedly heartbreaking, but resilient spirits have band together across the state in an effort to rebuild. 

Dr. Greg Winters, superintendent of CVTC, focuses on maintaining a positive attitude for not only himself, but also those he leads.

“I absolutely feel fortunate,” Winters said. “It was devastating and tough, and I think we went into shock at first but we dealt with it. My senior staff has done an incredible job, they are my heroes through all of this.”

He said, in his approximation, only five percent of the campus in El Reno is salvageable.

“We will get back in to the west end, the business and services wing, about the middle of August,” Winters said. “A lot of the center is going to have to be demolished down to concrete columns and roof decks. The rest of it, about seven or eight buildings, will be bulldozed completely.”

“It may sound crazy, but this is how I’ve looked at it: OK, we were dealt a tough blow, we have been very professional and methodical about it, and now we get an opportunity to go back in and redesign a 2015 technical training center instead of attempting to remodel a 1970 building. We will be able to design a building that meets the needs of today — equipped with safe rooms. I want to be able to design the safest center for our staff and students.”

As of now, students are traveling to various places to continue courses. Winters is thankful for the accommodations that have been made for his students due to the help of the community.

“John Holt, who runs a car dealership here in Chickasha, used to own a car dealership in Yukon,” Winters said. “We’ve actually rented it from John and we are moving most of our stuff in there. Out of 19 programs, I believe we’ve put 14 of them at the John Holt building.”

The emergency management skills of everyone at CVTC have been put to the test throughout the last few weeks, but Winters is proud of the work done thus far.

“We were only down for a couple of days and then we fired back up and got to work,” Winters said, “and we have a lot of work to do even though we’ve done a lot of work. We’re going to be fine though. We have a great staff.”

Rebuilding the center will be a two-year process, according to Winters. Although certain classes and programs must be discontinued for a while or placed on tighter enrollment restrictions, no CVTC personnel will be laid off.

“We have really redefined normal,” Winters said. “We meet every morning at 7:30 a.m. and lay out the marching orders, distribute assignments for the day and try to stay focused. We had the El Reno facility for 43 years so now moving equipment, testing equipment and trying to remodel each day has become the new normal — completing a check list of what we need to get accomplished each week in order for school to start has become the new normal for us.”

There is no text book for dealing with a situation such as this, Winters said, a person can only hope for a strong, reliable and intelligent team, which is what he believes he has.

“I have a great group of hard working people,” Winters said. “We are committed to seeing each other through this.”