School repairs

Belton ISD custodians work Saturday to prepare Lake Belton Middle School, 8818 Tarver Drive in Temple, for the return of students on Tuesday.

The Belton and Temple independent school districts continue to assess what damage was caused by last week’s historic winter storm that brought subfreezing temperatures, snow and ice for days on end.

The damages, though, were not enough to cancel classes on Tuesday. District officials told the Telegram they found leaks in campuses’ fire suppression systems, pipes and minor water damage.

No estimated costs have been compiled yet but administrators expect insurance will likely cover the repairs, according to the districts.

In Belton ISD, Mike Morgan, the assistant superintendent of operations, said two campuses — Lake Belton High School and Lake Belton Middle School — needed cleaning and restoration work. Charter Oak Elementary and the Transportation Services building needed additional time to restore power and schools inside the city of Belton were impacted by municipal water issues, he added.

“Nine of our 15 academic campuses were largely unaffected by last week’s weather,” said Kent Boyd, Temple ISD’s assistant superintendent of finance and operations. “Repairs needed at the other six campuses vary in scope, but all critical repairs have been made. We’re happy to report that schools are ready to receive students tomorrow and that’s because of the tireless work that our staff has put in since the severe weather began.”

Crews in both districts kept an eye on campuses when the area had its first freeze on Feb. 11 and continued to monitor the buildings for any potential damage — an effort Boyd attributed to minimizing even more costly damage.

“We are thankful to our facilities staff who were on site during the week repairing damage and working to prevent further issues as the weather got progressively worse,” Morgan said. “Their efforts kept us ahead of the curve on preparations to return to school.”

Classrooms were relatively unscathed by the storm in both districts. Morgan said all but one classroom was ready for Belton ISD students to return Tuesday.

“Repairs were prioritized to address needs in instructional spaces first,” Boyd said. “I’m happy to report that classes will be largely unaffected by any outstanding repairs. There were only a few fine arts or electives classrooms that had to be temporarily relocated.”

Temple ISD noticed a pattern among the damages at its schools. Campuses that had power off for longer than 24 hours were more likely to need additional repairs, Boyd said.

Belton ISD plans to dig into the damages and determine what it can learn from the situation, Morgan said.

“The review is going to center around finding answers to these three questions: What did we handle really well, what do we think we would do differently if faced with this type of situation again, and what resources will we need to be prepared in the future?” he explained. “One item, for example, that has already come up is whether we need a backup generator for fuel pumps at our Transportation Services facility.”

These facilities, both men said, represent a significant amount of taxpayer investment and must be kept in tip-top shape.

A large number of repairs were handled among employees already working for the districts, the two assistant superintendents said.

“Thanks to hard work from our staff and community partners, school facilities are cleaned and essential repairs are complete. Electricity and water are restored to all campuses,” Morgan said. “This really is a best case scenario with what the Big Red Community went through.”

Boyd said the work completed by maintenance and facility crews was “inspirational.”

“We’re extremely grateful for the effort they’ve put in,” he said. “They worked day and night and over the weekend to have our campuses in shape for teachers and students to return.”