For the roughly 900 Thompson Intermediate School students whose campus was devastated by flooding from Hurricane Harvey, school started this week on schedule, but in unfamiliar surroundings.
They’ve been relocated to the district’s Collaborative Learning Center, which also houses Beverly Hills Intermediate School. Offices previously used for administration was reconfigured into a series of partitions to serve as classrooms and offices for Thompson students and faculty.
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But Principal Melissa Allen said the students are just happy to be back in school.
“The school is the people,” Thompson principal Melissa Allen said. “I think the kids are looking for some stability, they wanted to see their friends, their teachers … they want that sense of community they get when they’re in a building together.”
Water 5 feet deep
Of Pasadena ISD’s 67 campuses, Williams and Frazier elementary schools also sustained flood damage.
“We’re still doing the tallies on a daily basis,” district spokesperson Art Del Barrio said of recovery and clean-up efforts. “When you’re looking at the remediation teams that are going in to fix the schools so that they don’t become water-logged and damaged and full of mold, the response was immediate.”
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The district hasn’t put a dollar figure on the overall damage, Del Barrio said, but the level of disruption to students and faculty is being felt.
Officials estimate that at least 1,600 of its students will be displaced, and at Thompson, 11309 Sagedowne Lane, the recovery will take longer.
Harvey’s rain brought 5 feet of water into the building. Within two days, clean-up crews had stripped 5 feet of wallboard and sprayed down every pillar with disinfectant, according Del Barrio.
‘My kids, my kids, my kids’
Three weeks later, most of the school’s interior – desks, band and orchestra instruments, tables, chairs – lie in heaps in empty rooms and outside near a back entrance. The devastation mirrors what happened to many homes in the surrounding neighborhoods, Allen said.
“I walk in there (at Thompson) and I see how bad it is and in my head, I’m thinking ‘My kids, my kids, my kids’ – and I turn around and see how bad the neighborhood is … it’s emotional,” she said. “Many of our students experienced flooding, and so they’re either in their home trying to rebuild or they were displaced from their home.”
On Monday, Thompson students arrived at the learning center, 11111 Beamer Road, in high numbers and in high spirits, district Associate Superintendent Alyta Harrell said.
“Regardless of how many were displaced, we had so many show up here,” she said. “They were excited.”
Thompson and Beverly Hills students will share a campus, but there will be some separation, Harrel said.
“Each campus has its own culture, traditions and climate,” she said. “What makes a house a home? It’s the family, it’s the traditions, and so we are capturing that. Yes, we are (Thompson) displaced, but we’re bringing students back to the same expectations, friendly faces that make a successful campus.”
The two campuses may be rivals in athletics, said Harrell, but Harvey has reshaped the nature of their relationship.
“As a community trying to recover, we’re sister schools,” she said.
According to Del Barrio, staff members at individual campuses throughout the district are reaching out to their communities, using Harvey and recovery as a teaching tool through essays and projects where students can tell their stories.
At Thompson, the narrative of Harvey is an evolving one, for students and faculty, Allen said.
“Some of our kids are not ready to talk about their experience, and some of them are, and they’re talking about what it’s like to lose their home, what it’s like to not necessarily know when they can go back home, or about how their home isn’t liveable so they won’t be going back home,” she said. “That’s a hard thing to hear.”
For now, going back to school in a post-Harvey environment is a start to total recovery.
“The school is our home away from home. Teachers, educators spend more time together than most professionals, and to know that we have to find a place where we can still be a family somewhere else … it’s emotional,” Allen said.