Laura Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at Mauriceville Elementary School, had a new rug on her classroom floor. The squares of red, green, blue and orange brightened the gray concrete floor and gray walls. But at least it’s hers, for a while.
Johnson and other Mauriceville Elementary staff were preparing Friday afternoon to move into Little Cypress Junior High. Full-day classes will start there on Monday.
It’s another step in the classroom musical chairs the Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD has had to play since Hurricane Harvey flooded campuses at the end of August, before classes had even started.
The junior high, which was new in 2016, had about six inches of water inside, said Assistant Superintendent Greg Perry. Mauriceville Elementary had three to four feet, including in some new buildings that have never been used.
Mauriceville Elementary students have been going to half-day classes at North Orange Baptist Church, which has provided room for the district.
Perry said the junior high has mostly cinderblock and tile walls, so the school could be cleaned without having to remove sheetrock. Each classroom, though, has a wall with sheetrock. It has been removed up from the floor and covered in non-flamable plastic. The tiles and glue were removed from the floors, leaving bare concrete.
Damaged doors have been removed, even from classrooms. Some teachers have made curtains with colorful patterns.
No one is complaining. Johnson is looking forward to doing art projects with her 18 students. The half-day classes haven’t given her a chance to do the whole curriculum. Art was dropped for teaching numbers. “Unfortunately, we haven’t had time to do all the things we’re supposed to,” she said.
Some of the things the teachers have had to do this year is console young students. “Five-year-olds are amazing,” Johnson said. She lets them tell their stories of flooded houses, rescues by boats, and lost belongings.
She knows five-year-olds can exaggerate stories. But she believes the ones she hears now. “It’s so sad and it makes me want to keep them that much closer,” she said.
Mauriceville Elementary Principal Carie Broussard said a rough poll showed that of the 550 students at the school, 258 had some damage from the flood. The school has 80 staff members from custodians to teachers. Fifty-two members of the staff had water in their homes.
Superintendent Dr. Pauline Hargrove said all students have been served free lunches, which has been a help. She and other superintendents in the disaster area have requested the free breakfasts and lunches be extended through the end of the year to help families. As of Friday, the free meals for everyone was set to end on October 31.
She said the brown bag lunches have been healthy and she praised the “cafeteria ladies” in the district who have had one kitchen to make the meals. The ladies have been transporting the sack meals to schools.
The cafeteria in the junior high will now be available to the Mauriceville Elementary students and they will be able to leave the classrooms to gather and eat. Friday afternoon, the smell of fresh apples filled the kitchen after boxes of the fruit had been delivered.
The school library on Friday didn’t have books, but had dozens of boxes with supplies. Hargrove said the items, including school supplies and clothing have come from donors across the country.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-