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Uprooted by Floods, Students Have New School To Call Home

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The 500 students of the Valmeyer Community School are home again.

In August 1993, the Mississippi River swept through the town of Valmeyer, Ill., washing away the K-12 school that had served as the center of the community for 55 years. This week, a new $10.7 million school will open, built high above the river's flood plain.

The school will not be officially dedicated until May, but its opening unofficially marks a new beginning for the small farming community. Uprooted by 1993's record-setting floods, Valmeyer joined a federal flood-relief experiment and agreed to relocate to higher ground. (See Education Week, Sept. 21, 1994.)

Some towns hit by the floods have ceased to exist, as residents scattered and moved away. But Valmeyer accepted the federal offer to relocate its key community buildings, including the school.

While the new town was being built, students went to portable classrooms on the Monroe County fairgrounds. And when classes were over for the day, many of them returned to makeshift homes in portable trailers.

Some families decided to move away, but those who stayed will find rewards in the new school. Its 60 rooms are spread over 100,000 square feet, 20,000 more than the old school. Classrooms will be wired to the Internet and a CD-ROM library through the school's media center. And the school will be equipped for students to use interactive video to take advanced classes at other schools.

Federal disaster-relief money eventually will pay for about 85 percent of the school's construction costs, said Harold R. Baum, the Valmeyer superintendent.

"Things have pretty much settled back to normal," he said. "People know what direction they're headed in."

--Drew Lindsay

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