The Long Road Ahead (w/video)
Sept. 1, 2017 at 10:33 p.m.
Updated Sept. 1, 2017 at 11:03 p.m.
REFUGIO - The new furniture delivered to Refugio ISD on Aug. 24 was going to put the finishing touches on a renovated school.
However, Hurricane Harvey changed all of that the next day. Most of the furniture, in addition to the buildings, are damaged or detroyed.
"It was overwhelming at first," Superintendent Melissa Gonzales said Friday.
Refugio County school districts are unsure about when their schools will reopen, officials said.
Every building in the Refugio school district except the athletic facility sustained damage from battered roofs to water inside buildings, Gonzales said.
The doors to the auditorium were blown off, she said.
Classes are estimated to begin in four to six weeks, but Gonzales said she was hoping to shorten the time to three to four weeks.
About 125 workers cleaned storm debris from the front of the high school campus Wednesday. Since then, they have been working to repair damage.
"From the beginning, I've wanted to clean up," Gonzales said. "The school is the heart of the community."
Gonzales' plan is to start with the buildings that have the least damage and move to those with the most, she said.
The $20 million bond project officials had put together for two years will be pushed back, she said.
Gonzales said counselors will be available for students and employees when classes start.
"Many students and staff have lost their homes," she said.
School supply donations will be accepted at the school's bus barn, St. James The Apostle Catholic Church and Fliptastic Gymnastics.
"We are going to fight back, be strong and come back even better," she said.
The damage to Woodsboro school district is extensive, said Janice Sykora, interim superintendent.
"I've been in every building, and it's pretty heartbreaking," Sykora said.
Roofs on the elementary gym and auditorium were lost, as well as air vents on the tops of buildings, she said. Water also was discovered in the buildings.
"Just about every building has been touched in some way," Sykora said.
The elementary gym sustained the most damage.
The band's equipment was stored in the back of the auditorium, she said. The band director went to the school Wednesday to begin salvaging instruments.
Safety is a priority in reopening the schools, she said. The town remains without electricity.
"Our game plan is to try to get generators that could give us some power to clean up," she said. "We are wanting to get school started as soon as we can."
The school's restart date is undetermined because it depends on when the buildings will be ready.
District officials are in need of an electrician who can assess what size generators the schools will need to produce electricity.
Donations in the form of school supplies and cleaning supplies are welcome, she said.
"Primarily, we are looking for gift cards or cash cards for H-E-B or Walmart to give to students' families," Sykora said. "Some people have lost a great deal."
She has been the interim superintendent since Aug. 3.
"I was there long enough to see how it can be," she said. "Our students and staff were excited about the new school year, and then we had this happen. It's devastating to everyone."
Donations may be mailed to the district's central office at 408 S. Kasten St. in Woodsboro.
"As soon as the school facilities are safe for everyone to enter and we have electricity, we will be able to open the schools," she said. "We are coming back Woodsboro strong."
Day 1: Here comes Harvey
Day 2: Brace yourself
Day 3: 'Prayers protect us'
Day 5: 'At least God let us live'
Day 6: 'It's the luck of the draw'