Superintendent's column: School district in process of recovery, repair

By BY ROBERT JAKLICH
Feb. 3, 2018 at 4:42 p.m.

Robert Jaklich

Robert Jaklich   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

In the Victoria ISD, this year's focus is "Better Together," and nothing is more evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as we rebuild our school district and prepare to experience the best school year yet.

Throughout the Region 3 Education Service Center, which also includes VISD, all 39 school districts have been declared as state disaster areas by Gov. Greg Abbott. According to the latest report from the Governor's Commission to Rebuild Texas, Texas experienced a record 60-plus inches of rain during the storm, impacting more than 50,000 square miles and more than 8.8 million Texans. The total number of school districts across the state of Texas that have been identified as existing in disaster areas is 272, and the amount of students affected by the storm across these 272 Texas school districts is 1,966,743.

As we continue to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it is completely evident Victoria ISD's 27 campuses and numerous departments and facilities incurred major damages. As the storm blew across Victoria, reports of severe damage at multiple district facilities and campuses was reported. Campus roofs were compromised when the hurricane-strength winds blew HVAC equipment out of place, creating open holes in the roofs of several campuses. Windows blew out, allowing wind and windblown rain to enter buildings. Doors were blown in and roof material was blown off, resulting in insecure buildings and extensive water damage. Extended windblown rain created conditions where water entered buildings through roofs, windows, walls and doors. Trees were uprooted; fences were destroyed; and stadium scoreboards, press boxes, lights and bleachers were compromised. In addition, access to several buildings was blocked as electrical lines and poles were blown down, creating extremely dangerous conditions.

However, with the tremendous commitment and dedication of our VISD maintenance staff, other VISD personnel, our VISD Board of Trustees, contracted business service companies and out-of-town and community volunteers, we were able to tackle this significant challenge and provide the opportunity of returning back to school much sooner than expected. We are also extremely proud and appreciative of the exceptional efforts displayed by our faculty, staff and students who so graciously gave of themselves to serve the students and families of our community. Throughout this entire process, these VISD family members gave of themselves by delivering or distributing food, clothing, hygiene products, diapers, water, ice and school supplies and even providing yard work and residential cleanups for those in need. We are so proud and inspired by the exceptional fortitude displayed by all of these "VISD Champions" during these most trying times.

This destruction was most evident at Aloe Elementary, which sustained the most damage of any VISD facility. Aloe Elementary is the second-oldest elementary school in VISD and is composed of five buildings. The oldest building, Building A, is 67 years old and sustained extensive damages. Twelve classrooms were significantly impacted, requiring students and staff to be relocated to other buildings on-site.

The entire contents of the 12 classrooms were lost due to water damage. Contents included teacher desks, book shelves, area carpets, student furniture, instructional materials and books. Additionally, marker boards, bulletin boards and maps were ruined beyond repair. Buildings B, C and D suffered damages because of windblown rain. Ceiling tile, floor tile and water restoration services were necessary in these facilities as well and have already been addressed.

Technology resources were also affected by the damage that occurred to Aloe Elementary School. Forty-three desktop computers and monitors, six laptops, four document cameras, seven projectors, two printers, one phone and one 48-port networking switch were damaged because of the storm.

All in all, the total damages incurred to all facilities within VISD is estimated by the Insurance Company, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) to be $10 million.

The recovery process to repair and replace this extensive damage is long and tedious. The insurance company has requirements for the district to follow, especially in the inspections of the buildings and the hiring of an engineering firm to secure and review the work in a progressive process. Every step in the process has to be re-evaluated and checked to determine walls are not covering up moisture, which would create a mold concern for the future. Additionally, since not everything is covered by insurance, the school district has the opportunity and responsibility to recover the other expenses, such as water restoration, emergency repairs and the deductibles on each facility and building contents through FEMA. The school district has a 2-percent deductible on each building and its contents (not each school). The reimbursement for these costs comes from FEMA and TDEM. We have been assigned a FEMA and TDEM representative, and these individuals have informed us they require the work be documented in stages and no permanent repairs can be made until all inspections and temporary repairs are approved, all procurement processes have been reviewed, the current temporary work has been assessed and the request for the permanent work is authorized. In many of our campus facilities, the walls and rooms were stripped completely bare. The extensive damages required a cleanup phase (the fall) and the rebuilding process (the spring), which includes the flooring, walls, ceiling and roof(s), which will not be approved to be repaired to a permanent state until the last few months of the 2017-2018 school year.

We want you to know that our VISD Hurricane Harvey Recovery Team is on top of this long and tedious process of recovery and repair. We truly appreciate your understanding and patience as we maneuver through this extremely important endeavor. We will continue to work with our campus principals to expedite the repair and replacement process at each and every opportunity.

On behalf of our Board of Trustees and the entire VISD, thank you for your belief in our school district, your commitment to excellence and for reminding us all, "It's not the things you receive but the hearts that you touch that determine your success in life."

Robert Jaklich is the superintendent for the Victoria Independent School District. Contact him at 361-788-9202 or through the VISD website, visd.com.


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