Schools deal with damage after snow storm

Sheri Gourd, Tahlequah Daily Press, Okla.
·4 min read

Feb. 20—While some Cherokee County superintendents are knocking on wood, others are having to access damages to school sites caused by the recent winter storms.

The Grand View School maintenance and custodial team worked to prepare in advance for the frigid temperatures by putting heating tape in place, leaving faucets to drip and thermostats set to avoid freeze-ups.

"The same team prepared sidewalks with de-icer treatment, allowing for limited campus access when ice was first an issue. The snowfall accumulations and blowing snow ultimately overwhelmed them. Still, this was not an issue as the sub-zero temperatures kept staff working from home," said Ed Kennedy, Grand View superintendent.

Even with the prep work, mother nature made herself known.

"A pipe froze and burst in our kitchen area causing the kitchen, storage and serving areas to all have flood damage. Unfortunately, the water supply lines were in the ceiling. This caused damage to ceilings, walls and floors, in addition to cooking equipment and kitchen supplies. These will require several repairs," said Kennedy. "We also had automated gates that froze. These were deactivated to avoid damage and locks on other gates and doors were treated with lubricants that would keep them from freezing."

The water line has been repaired and the ruined insulation and ceiling tiles have been removed and discarded.

"We have a commercial restoration service and an insurance adjuster scheduled to be on campus soon. Ideally their services and recommendations will not impact school schedules. We think that we can work with our food service staff and their schedules so that there will be no interruptions to daily meal preparation or meal times," said Kennedy. "First, we are trying hard to restore our weekly Grab-and-Go Meal Program for all of our virtual students."

Multiple Tahlequah Public Schools buildings suffered due to the freezing temperatures.

"On Tuesday, we had the water line for the boiler at Greenwood freeze, causing the boiler to drop out. There was also a water line for the hot water that sprung a leak causing the entry door to freeze," said TPS Superintendent Leon Ashlock. "At the high school, we had the condensate drain lines at the library freeze and backup, causing water to leak into the library. Wednesday we had a three-fourths-inch line that feeds an outdoor faucet freeze flooding five classrooms."

The amount of materials, equipment, and supplies damaged has not been accessed, according to Ashlock. He said they are working on drying out the high school class rooms and removing drywall.

"Repairs will continue into next week, but should not affect returning to school," said Ashlock.

Even though the county received more snow this past week than some kids have seen their whole lives, no snow days were called.

"We had virtual learning days. When we delayed the start of school two weeks due to COVID, that used up all the extra time we had built into the school calendar," said Ashlock.

Keys Public Schools also had virtual learning this past week.

"We are looking forward to an ice and snow-free week next week, and we can just go back to dealing with the pandemic and all other 'normal' issues of the year," said Keys High School Principal Steven Goss. "We are very proud of the education we have been able to provide our students this year, and we know this snow storm has been a blow to learning, but we hope that our distance learning system will help that blow be minimal and we will continue to work to improve the process for all students and teachers. I have been impressed by the work that our students and staff have done during this unprecedented time."

Kennedy said the model for virtual learning this past week was for "asynchronous learning."

"With asynchronous learning, students get the best of both worlds; a snow day — if they could have withstood the bitterly cold temperatures — and a virtual day that counts as instruction as their work is completed. In other words, the students could get lessons completed based on a schedule that works best for them and their families," said Kennedy. "With power outages, water issues, internet problems, etc., this asynchronous model was the best way to address both the safety and the learning needs of the students and their families. We fully realize the stress and emotional toll on families at this time. Don't forget, our teachers and staff are all going through these same issues. With that in mind, Grand View is working to make sure that their safety and emotional needs are met, before we worry about schoolwork."

As part of Grand View School's School Climate Transformation Grant, GVS Principal Dr. Larry Ben has worked to develop a Family Assistance Form to find out what families need.

"This brief survey has been posted to the website and included in a notification to parents. It let's Grand View families notify the school that they need to know where they might find support services. Families can also ask the school for assistance," said Kennedy.