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Temporary schools greet survivors of Oklahoma twister

First-grade student Austin Kinder, left, poses for a photo for his teacher, Becky Evans, right, on the first day of school at Plaza Towers Elementary school in their temporary location in Central Jr. High school in Moore, Okla., Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. The Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools were destroyed when an EF5 twister hit Moore on May 20, killing seven students. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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By USA Today
Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 8:39 p.m.

MOORE, Okla. — Banners, balloons, cheerleaders and therapy dogs welcomed Moore students back on Friday for their first day of school since the deadly tornado in May.

Students of Plaza Tower Elementary and Briarwood Elementary commuted to temporary schools where they will attend classes while their buildings are rebuilt. The EF-5 tornado that ripped through town on May 20 destroyed both schools and killed 25 people, including seven third-grade students at Plaza Tower. No one was seriously hurt at Briarwood.

A mix of nerves and excitement accompanied Plaza Tower students as they streamed into their remodeled wing at Central Junior High School. A large banner welcomed the students, along with balloons and five dogs from Therapy Dogs International, a New Jersey group that dispatches passive dogs to nursing homes, hospitals and disaster sites.

Amber Cain escorted her daughter, Olivia, 11, holding her tightly by an arm. “It's just hard,” she said. “I just feel for the parents whose kids can't go to school today.”

Four miles away, Briarwood Elementary students showed up to their temporary classrooms at Emmaus Baptist Church, which opened its large educational building to the students. They were greeted by thumping pop music from a parked van, Rumble the Bison, the furry mascot of the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team, and the team's cheerleaders.

Heather Fawcett said her daughter, Kylie, a fourth-grader, was eager to reunite with friends but was still asking questions, such as, “Does the school have a tornado shelter?” Fawcett and her daughter rode out the storm at the school.

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