Laurel breaks ground on Nora Davis restoration project

A school and parking lot with people walking on the sidewalk.

In December of 2019 an EF3 tornado caused extensive damage to the Laurel School District’s Nora Davis Campus and on November 4, 2021 the district officially broke ground on a multi-million-dollar construction project.

“It has taken nearly two years to finalize the insurance settlement and plans for restoration,” said Superintendent Dr. Toy L. Watts. “We are very excited to bring back this landmark to the Laurel community that honors the legacies of Nora Davis and Idella Washington.”

Upon the completion of the Nora Davis Campus, the district will undergo a final restructuring that will provide grade-level schools for the children of Laurel. Oak Park Elementary will house pre-kindergarten through first grades, Nora Davis Elementary School will house second through fourth grades, Laurel Upper Elementary School will house fifth and sixth, and Laurel Middle School will then house grades seventh and eighth. Mason Elementary School will then become the Family Center that was previously planned for the Nora Davis Campus. Laurel High and Laurel Magnet schools will remain the same.

“The tornado was a heartbreak, and left us all reeling with disbelief and sadness. But, now, we can see the rainbow after the storm, “Watts said. “Through this restoration, we are able to provide a much more secure space for children with a fully connected school. Previously if children needed to go from a classroom to the gym, library or cafeteria they had to walk outside, even when the weather was unfavorable.”

The construction project calls for the demolition of the buildings that were decimated by the tornado, and the remaining buildings will then be joined together with a new front that will include an exploratorium, additional classrooms and a cafeteria.

The Laurel School District Board of Trustees approved the construction contract with Codaray Construction who was the lowest bidder, and Dale|Bailey an Association is the architectural firm for the project. The cost of the Nora Davis Campus construction project is $13.8 million dollars.

“The district received $10.5 million for the tornado damages that occurred throughout the district, which included damage at the Gardiner Administrative Building, the Stewart M. Jones Campus that houses Laurel Magnet School of the Arts, and the devastated Nora Davis Campus,” Watts said. “We will utilize a 16th section loan for the remainder of the project.”

The anticipated date of completion is March of 2023, with Nora Davis Elementary School opening to students in July of 2023.

“We are anxiously awaiting the day we can open Nora Davis Elementary School to students” Watts said. “It is going to be a beautiful campus, and a huge asset to the city of Laurel.”