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Published in Print: June 20, 2001, as Storm Wreaks Millions in Damages In Texas and La.

Storm Wreaks Millions in Damages In Texas and La.

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Tropical Storm Allison dropped between 15 and 36 inches of rain over just four days on southeastern Texas and southern Louisiana this month. It will take a lot longer than that—and millions of dollars—for schools to rebound from the storm.

"This has been a nightmare," said Stephanie Cravens, the superintendent of the 4,200-student Sheldon Independent School District, located just east of Houston, where the weather was the worst and claimed four lives.

"Three- fourths of our school system is damaged," she said. "It is devastating."

Neither Texas nor Louisiana has collected information on the extent of the school damage caused by the storm that began June 4.

Individual school districts, however, are reporting collapsed roofs, waterlogged computer systems, ruined furniture, mud-filled hallways, and washed-out bus depots.

Impact in Houston

Floodwaters damaged 155 of the 300 schools run by the 210,000-student Houston Independent School District, 13 of which have sustained substantial problems, said Carmen A. Gomez, a spokeswoman. The district was able to draft a plan that allowed students to return to summer school last week, she said.

Schools in most districts in both Texas and Louisiana were open for summer school at the time of the storm, officials reported. But because the storm first hit the area during the evening hours, students were not in classes.

Estimating the Costs

Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, took the brunt of the high winds and water. The Sheldon district and the neighboring, 12,600-student North Forest schools appear to have suffered the most severe damages in the region, Ms. Cravens said.

Five of the six schools in the Sheldon district are all but ruined, she said. Repairs to facilities are initially expected to cost taxpayers $10 million to $12 million, although damages could amount to much more. The district had only recently completed $23.5 million in renovations.

Administrators have yet to decide exactly where or when students will return to summer school, Ms. Cravens said. But the superintendent has resolved to ensure that schools are ready to open in August for the fall semester.

Overhauling facilities in North Forest is projected to cost about $7 million, Ms. Cravens said.

No further information could be obtained about that district, as telephones were still out of service in the area late last week.

Vol. 20, Issue 41, Page 3

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