Students at Brazos River Charter School got a break of sorts after last week’s storms blew through Somervell County, leaving a large portion of the campus in ruins.
While numerous residents across the county reported damage to their homes, none was as extensive as that found at the charter school on the morning of Thursday, April 10.
Suffering more than $100,000 in damages as a result of last week’s thunderstorms and possible twister, Principal Jackie Spain says the school was forced to close for two days.
The Brazos River Charter School, located east of Glen Rose off of US Hwy. 67 in the Nemo area, on property owned by New Prospect Baptist Church, welcomed students back on Tuesday after an extensive clean-up was held in order to get the school operational again.
“We totally lost a classroom and the adjacent building was damaged, but we’ll be able to use it until the end of the (school) year,” said Spain. “Our bus barn was damaged to the point of not being able to be repaired, and an awning on another building was torn off. That particular building sustained roof damage.”
A gazebo, donated in the memory of former students now deceased, was tossed upside down and moved approximately 10 feet from its original resting spot, said Spain. “The storm completely destroyed the gazebo. When we tried to turn it over it broke apart.”
Rainwater that poured through a hole in the roof soaked 15 computers in one classroom while several other computers were saved by allowing them to dry out, Spain reported.
“The room that was destroyed was the math room. All of the teacher’s papers were blown away or totally soaked,” said Spain. “His room looks like a tornado went through it. The room next door, the computer lab, those computers were rained on, but we were able to dry them out and turn them upside down and let them sit and dry.”
Another room was damaged from flying debris kicked up from the gale force winds.
Spain, who previously taught in Grandview, says he’s never seen a school sustain as much damage as the local charter school did last week.
Winds, reported by the National Weather Service to be as high as 75 mph, pushed one building into another, said Spain, and littered the campus with debris and two telephone poles that were knocked over in the storm.
“The school was closed Thursday and Friday because we had to clean up and we had no power,” said Spain. “Power was partially restored Thursday evening and the main office, we had power returned Friday afternoon.”
On Monday, the faculty had a scheduled in-service day, but Spain opted to hold a planning meeting in the storm’s wake to allow the staff to plan for how they would continue until May.
“We spent the time putting together new classrooms. We had to move two classes and had to reassign them to other parts of our school,” said Spain. “New Prospect Baptist Church has opened its doors for us. They’ve given some rooms for us to use, so we put a classroom in one of their former Sunday School rooms and then we just divided another classroom on the campus.”
The principal says he got a call at 3 a.m. from the school’s security system provider that a burglary alarm had been activated. “I live in Grandview and in talking with the security alarm people, I suggested they call the police. I’m sure they were busy, but a little before 5 a.m. I got a second call and the deputy reported the damage.”
Spain, who arrived to work before daylight to assess the storm damage, says it was a matter of taking it all in, seeing the rubble left behind. “I waited for the sun to come up to get around safely and look at the damage.”
What he found was a scene he knew would take lots of time to adjust and rebuild. But thanks to the student body, the debris was cleaned up within two days returning the campus to more of its pre-storm appearance.
“Our students came in Thursday and Friday and it was strictly volunteer,” said a much obliged Spain. “About 50 percent of our students came to school ready to work and stayed until it was done. We cleaned this campus up in two days, then we had some other students over the weekend haul off three large cedar trees.”
The principal reported that a neighbor to the school offered to let the workers dump the tree limbs on their property.
“HCI Construction Co. donated an operator, a driver and a huge backhoe to help with the clean-up,” said Spain, “and Bodie Butler, he came in with a front-end loader and helped on Friday.”
The coordinated clean-up also received the support of several local churches and organizations from both Somervell and Johnson counties, said Spain, providing food to the student workers. “People just showed up with meals while we cleaned up the place. It was a family effort.”
During the cleanup, the principal reported that a science teacher at the school found something odd on campus. “She found a 1923 silver dollar in the parking lot. Where it came from, I don’t know.”
While classes were temporarily disrupted, Spain says the damage could have been much worse. “We feel blessed and fortunate the school didn’t sustain more significant damage. We’ve already received calls from some of the businesses the parents work for. Some are putting together fund raisers through Dollar General in Cleburne.”
The Brazos River Charter School, nearing eight years since opening its doors, will definitely mark last week’s storms in its history books, said Spain. “This year will go down in history as one of those memory makers, and in a good way in how the kids came out and helped to get us back to teaching.”