“I wanted to give our students a better start than having to paddle their way to the first day of school.”
By CRISTINA JANNEY
New Hays USD 489 Superintendent Ron Wilson spent what was supposed to be the first day of a new school year assessing empty schools for storm damage.
The storm that barreled through Hays on Tuesday night, bringing winds of up to 78 mph, blew out windows in a classroom at Hays Middle School. The school’s gymnasium took on water, although Wilson said school officials did not think the floor was damaged. Hallways at HMS also were flooded with water.
Lincoln Elementary School, which is in an older, low-lying area of Hays, also had flooding issues. Water blew in under doors and in through Lincoln’s aging windows. A hallway and several classrooms also took on water. Covers were blown off the school’s roof, which Wilson said also contributed to the school’s water issues.
The Learning Center in the basement of Rockwell Administration Center also flooded.
The rest of the schools took on smaller amounts of water, but Wilson said all schools will be open for business for a second try at the first day of school Thursday.
“At this point, I feel really good we have been able to get everything where it needs to be, so we are ready to roll tomorrow morning,” he said.
Elementary students will go for a half day on Thursday and middle and high school students will go a full day on Thursday.
Wilson said he took in several factors when deciding to close school Wednesday.
Not only were several buildings dealing with damage and power outages, he was concerned about the ability of parents, children and staff to get to school safely considering the street flooding, downed power lines and tree damage of Tuesday night.
“I wanted to give our students a better start than having to paddle their way to the first day of school,” he said.
He also hoped to give the students and staff the opportunity to help their families with cleanup at their homes.
The Hays High School football team volunteered Wednesday to help with cleanup, which Wilson said he thought was an important lesson for the students in civic duty.
Wilson also praised the custodial and maintenance staff who where at the schools past midnight and back at the schools early Wednesday morning working on cleanup.
“They left their homes and families in the middle of the night to attack the issues in the buildings,” Wilson said. “I can’t understate these are great people doing great things for our schools. I can’t give enough credit for what they do at our schools. I want everyone to know that the custodial and maintenance crew were amazing last night.”
Wilson said he did not have an estimate at this time of the total cost of the damage in the district.