The historic flooding in August caused at least $50 million in property damage to East Baton Rouge Parish public schools, but that initial estimate does not include the damage to buses, textbooks and other school supplies.
The school system, which is the second largest in the state with 42,000 students, released the estimate Friday afternoon.
Adonica Duggan, a spokeswoman for the school system, said the $50 million estimate is based only on damage to facilities, furniture and some technology.
Duggan said she did not yet have an estimate for transportation costs but said about 100 of the 571 buses in the school system’s fleet were damaged during the flooding and once that number is calculated, it will increase the district's total substantially. Of those damaged, 27 are being repaired, while 70 to 80 were damaged and are beyond repair. The school system is purchasing 68 buses immediately to have enough to restart schools, she said.
Schools are not set to reopen until Tuesday, Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day. The district’s 77 schools closed Aug. 12 after completing just two days of the 2016-17 school year. Sixteen school campuses, as well as four administrative sites, suffered flooding or post-flooding mold and other problems.
Jessica Bandele, whose son is about to start second grade at Mayfair Lab School, said panic …
David Daniel, president of Daniel & Eustis, the insurance consultant for the school system, said that its flood coverage is complicated, but it roughly equates to a deductible of $250,000 and an overall limit of $10 million. The claim from the recent flooding will reach that limit, he said.
“It will be the largest insured claim of any kind that the school system has ever had,” Daniel said.
Duggan said she should know more next week about how the school system will pay to fix all of this damage. She said school officials have been talking with FEMA about what costs the federal agency will reimburse the school system for.
The school system’s general operating fund, which accounts for about two-third of all spending, is expected to have of $28.1 million in unspent, unassigned reserves when the 2016-17 fiscal year ends in June.
While all of its traditional schools remain closed, four of seven district-sponsored charter schools reopened this past week. They are Children’s Charter School, Inspire Charter Academy, Mentorship Academy and South Baton Rouge Charter Academy.
Of the three other three district-sponsored charters, the inner city boarding school, Thrive Charter Academy, is reopening Sunday night. J.K. Hayne and Community School for Apprenticeship Learning, or CSAL, charter schools are waiting until Sept. 6. Also reopening that day is CSAL’s sister school, Madison Prep, which is chartered by the state.
Almost all independent charter schools and private schools in the Baton Rouge area have already reopened.
After two feet of water flooded their school last weekend, the faculty of Democracy Prep Bat…
The $50 million damage estimate released Friday also does not include flood damage at the former Lanier Elementary and Prescott Middle campuses. Those buildings, which have been vacated temporarily by the charter schools that occupy them, are under the control of the state-run Recovery School District, or RSD, but are still owned by the parish school system. Daniel with Daniel & Eustis said that the school system is not obligated for flood damage to the contents of RSD-run buildings.
The recent flooding damage extends beyond school property. About 34 percent of parish school system staff have reported flooding damage to their personal property, either to their homes or cars.
Duggan said she doesn’t know how many of these 5,600 employees are not coming back. When employees reported to work Monday and Tuesday, 290 of them did not show, which is about 115 more than the number of employees who typically are absent this time of year, she said. About 35 teaching positions are vacant, with 20 of them in elementary grades, Duggan said.
Meanwhile, about 30 bus drivers are “unable to return to work,” Duggan said, leaving upward of 60 routes without drivers.
“We will use substitutes and trail drivers to fill some of the gaps in the routes,” she said, adding that the school system is trying to hire new drivers as well.
Those drivers will enter a confused situation. Thousands of families have been displaced from their homes and will likely need new routes to school. There also may be students new to the school system. Duggan said about 75 new students have registered since the flooding.
To help ensure these students get to school on time Sept. 6, the school system is pushing hard to get families to go online and complete a special “Displaced Students Transportation Request” form letting school officials know where their children were going to school before and where they are living currently.
“It’s really important for us to get that transportation information,” Duggan said.
Families that fill out the form will get up-to-date bus assignments. They will also get special lanyards with that information on them, which they can pickup before school or on Sept. 6, and the children will be directed to wear them.
In areas where there are clusters of displaced students, the school system may be able to set up direct routes, but most of them are likely to have to use transfer points to get back to their home school, Duggan said.
“We want to send as few kids as possible through transfers,” she said.