A month ago, Dr. Stephen Patterson would have looked forward to September First as the Friday ending the first week of a new school year at Orangefield ISD with a football game.
Instead, the school district’s superintendent rode in an Army truck to see for the first time the damage Tropical Storm Harvey left. Water was still standing in the parking lot.
“The high school and elementary both took on significant amounts” of water, Dr. Patterson told KOGT’s Gary Stelly Tuesday during The Morning Show.
The district has about 100,000 square feet of buildings that had an inch to six inches of water. The buildings included the high school field house.
Because of the damage and needed repairs, the first day of classes will be Monday, September 25.
He said about 30 percent of the district’s employees and 30 percent of the students had water inside their homes.
“The closer you were to (FM) 105, the worst it was,” he said.
The high school and elementary are on FM 105. The junior high, also within the district’s complex, is further north and received only a bit of water damage from a roof leak, not flood damage, Dr. Patterson said. That school was immediately fixed.
The high school gym was not damaged, but the football field house flooded.
The first day of school was supposed to be Monday, August 28. Instead, Orangefield will now begin on Monday, September 25, four weeks later than scheduled.
Dr. Patterson said he’s comfortable the remediation work will be completed by then. The transportation department and buses were not damaged and will be ready to go.
The school board has approved paying employees their regular salaries.
After arriving at the schools, Patterson and employees “went in and got the water out.” The district got one of the top companies in the country on water remediation to come in and start the recovery.
Dr. Patterson said even with 100,000 square feet of flooded rooms, the remediation is the same as a home. Get out the water, pull out the wet carpet, pull up tiles and cut out the walls that were wet. He said some offices and the library had carpeting.
Some students went back to the school campus on Monday as extracurricular activities started up again. The band hall was not damaged. The volleyball team can practice in the gym. The football team is using the junior high locker room until the field house is fixed.
After the damage is repaired, Orangefield will be dealing with the Texas Education Agency and state regulations. Dr. Patterson said about 40 percent of Texas public schools have been affected by Harvey and the state education commissioner will have to make decisions on attendance requirements, including funding.
The state pays local districts based on attendance. Dr. Patterson said the first day of school is usually the most attended day. The district expected to have an increase of about 100 students this year after several year of small declines, particulary after Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Now, the district is hoping to get all the students who registered to attend this year after a four-week unexpected break.