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Published in Print: May 15, 2002, as Weather Wreaks Havoc On Some Schools

Weather Wreaks Havoc On Some Schools

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Schools in rural McDowell County, W.Va., may not reopen for the rest of this academic year, after severe flooding May 2 destroyed one school and damaged up to 11 others.

The flooding and mudslides caused by torrential rainstorms killed six people and destroyed or damaged more than 500 buildings, authorities said. President Bush declared four counties in West Virginia disaster areas.

McDowell County Superintendent of Schools Mark Manchin was scheduled to meet with state Superintendent David Stewart and the county's principals early this week to decide whether to reopen schools.

"There's still proms and graduations. We're going to make every effort to give kids something to remember besides the floods," Mr. Manchin said.

About half the school system's 4,600 students have been left homeless, he said. Panther Elementary School, which enrolled 168 students, was washed away. "Water just engulfed the school," Mr. Manchin said. "There was 5 to 8 feet of dirty, black water gushing down the halls."

But he said he was most concerned about the emotional trauma his students may feel from experiencing two severe floods in one year. A flood last July killed six people. "When it clouds up and rains, how many children will become afraid?" the superintendent said. "That just breaks your heart."

Helping Out

In La Plata, Md., students, teachers, and school leaders are helping in relief efforts to put their town back together after it was hit by a tornado. The April 28 tornado cut a 12-mile swath of destruction through southern Maryland, killing three people and demolishing most of downtown La Plata. Three counties were declared disaster areas. Statewide damage is estimated at $120 million.

There was little damage to the area's public schools, but the twister leveled the 555-student Catholic Archbishop Neal Elementary School. Charles County school officials offered classroom space, transportation, and supplies to the school, said spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson.

At La Plata High School, 15 students and three teachers lost their homes in the tornado, said Principal Donald E. Cooke. Many members of his staff have provided them with clothing, money, and supplies, he said. Some students and staff members were also helping to clear away debris.

"We want to help out the community," Mr. Cooke said, "whatever the need may be."

Vol. 21, Issue 36, Page 10

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