PICHER — As area students prepare to return to school, only a hand full will remain in the Picher-Cardin district.

Superintendent Don Barr said about 50 students had enrolled as of late July - about half the number of students who exited at the end of the 2007-’08 school year.

“Enrollment has continued to drop over the last two years because of the buyout,” Barr said. “But many have also been displaced because of the tornado.”

A subsidence report two years ago prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to relocate residents believed to be living in areas of greatest risk of at risk of subsidence — due to years of mining.

As residents began leaving the community, neighborhoods became sparsely occupied - then came the thunder. On May 10, an F-4 tornado swept the southern part of town from its foundation, taking six lives and injuring dozens.

“The main concern is academics,” Barr said. “We will have 17 certified employees this year and 17 support staff.”

The district has a cooperative agreement with the Commerce School District for special education.

At the onset of the buyout, the district halted athletics and extracurricular programs.

“We will continue to bring in speakers and take students on field trips to fill the void,” Barr said.

At some point, according to Barr, the district will be annexed or consolidated with a neighboring school district, but for now classes will resume.

“We’ll continue to have classes until we determine there are too few students remaining in the area,” Barr said.