Belfry Middle School in Pike County has been given a Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School award by a South Carolina non-profit group.
The school bounced back from disaster in 2009, when May floods filled the school with mud, destroyed just-finished state test papers and forced the cancellation of the final three weeks of classes.
Belfry, which in 2008 had the state's seventh-best standardized test scores, this year had the state's fourth-best public middle school scores.
"We had $3.5 million in damage" from the 2009 floods, Principal Matt Mercer said. "In just a year and a half, we had bounced back."
Mercer said the school revived its academic team three years ago, and last year, its seventh-graders won fourth place at a national competition.
The president of Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Inc. approached Mercer after the competition to ask whether he had considered applying for the honor.
"Our teachers work so hard, staying till 5 o'clock every day," Mercer said. "Our kids have worked so hard."
He said an eighth-grader at the school is being tutored in college-level math and last year achieved an SAT score of more than 1600 out a possible 2400. Another student received a 33 on the ACT test.
The school offers a Spanish class and an honors academic course.
"In a school with over 70 percent of students on free and reduced lunches, and an average per-pupil expenditure only slightly above the state average," Blue Ribbon president Bart Teal wrote in an announcement, "Belfry Middle School has managed to turn what other educators may consider overwhelming challenges into successes."
Other Kentucky schools to receive Blue Ribbon Lighthouse awards include St. Michael School in Louisville, Assumption High School in Louisville, Phelps Elementary School in Pike County, St. Raphael School in Louisville and Summit Elementary School in Ashland.
A group from Belfry will attend Blue Ribbon's conference in Florida in December to receive the award, and Mercer will give a presentation on the school's best practices.