On Saturday, April 16, 2011, at 7:05 p.m., an F3 tornado touched down in Gloucester County, leveling much of Page Middle School and destroying many of the school system’s buses parked nearby. While the building was a total loss, the Saturday evening tornado struck at a time when no students, faculty, or staff were on-site.
Within hours, VML Insurance Programs (VMLIP) staff were in contact with Gloucester officials to ensure coverage – presenting an initial advance check for $250,000 just three days after the tornado struck. Over the course of the next four years, VMLIP paid more than $11.3 million on this claim – the largest the pool has received in it’s 35-year history.
Within a week of the tornado, children were back in school. For the remainder of the 2011 school year, Page Middle School students were welcomed to Peasley Middle School where they shared classroom space in split schedules. From then on, students were housed in modular classrooms at Gloucester High School while the new facility was planned and constructed.
Along the way, VMLIP claims staff were there to assist Gloucester officials as the planning process began.
“I appreciate all of your support and assistance in guiding Gloucester County Public Schools through this disaster response. Children are continuing to receive their educational services as a result of VML Insurance Programs’ hard work and attention,” said former Gloucester County Schools Division Superintendent Howard B. Kiser a few months after the tornado struck.
The county utilized the tragedy as an opportunity to rebuild and expand Page Middle School. Choosing county land not far from the old school, the new Page Middle School was expanded to 118,000 square feet, featuring two-story wings for each grade level, a fitness center, auditorium, and technology that could have never been integrated into the older facility. The new facility has been designed to support collaboration between teachers and students.
On Friday, Sept. 4, four years after the tornado struck, Page Middle School Principal Virginia Wilburn cut the ribbon to the $27 million building, opening the school to students.
“Throughout the past several years, intense planning and a vision to serve our students well took shape,” said Wilburn. “Community members and representatives of all school levels were called upon to discuss, identify and focus on key educational priorities – throughout this process a theme developed: creativity, inquiry, reflection, and knowing by doing. That is the mission of Page Middle School. This well-designed educational facility serves as a reflection of Gloucester County’s commitment to excellence.”
VMLIP Managing Director Steve Craig also believes the new Page Middle School shows a reflection of VMLIP’s commitment to our members.
“In the more than 35 years VMLIP has been serving our members, this is by far the largest claim we have ever received,” said Craig.
“We are proud that our pool has the financial strength to have paid more than $11.3 million to the Gloucester County School System to assist them in rebuilding after this natural disaster. This is what pools were designed to do – to be there for our members when they need us the most. I’m proud of all that our staff have done to aid the school system over the past four years, and we look forward to continuing to serve all of our members when they need us most.”
For more information on VMLIP’s financial strength, see the most recent annual report.
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