Schools Recovering From Flooding in W. Virginia

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The way Elmer Pritt of Rowlesberg, W.Va., tells it, the town's elementary- and high-school complex "ended up somewhere in Pennsylvania" after the Cheat River got through with it early last November.

"The water was up to chest level on the second story of the main school building," says Mr. Pritt, superintendent of the 6,3OO-student Preston County school district, of the devastating floods that rocked the state. West Virginia sustained the most serious damage among the handful of states that were hard hit by the late-fall rainstorm that swept up the Eastern seaboard.

"Of the seven structures in the complex, four completely disintegrated," Mr. Pritt explains. "Two others had their wall washed away. The only one left standing, the main building, sustained so much structural damage that it's a complete loss."

Nevertheless, he says, his district and others in the 28 counties ravaged by what some have called the worst natural disaster in the state's history are well on the road to recovery.

All 377 students who attended school in Rowlesberg's K-12 complex of buildings were back to classes within two weeks of the flood—some in makeshift classrooms in churches and banks, others in school 15 to 20 miles away—Mr. Pritt notes.

Meanwhile, the district has received about $4 million in federal aid and insurance funds to begin the process of rebuilding the schools. Total flood damage to West Virginia schools is estimated at more than $7 million.

The legislature is expected to consider in its current session a bill that would help support districts that have lost tax-revenue sources as a result of the flood.

"The generosity of people from all over the nation has been just unreal," Mr. Pritt says. High-school students from the town of Fairmont, W.Va., for example, raised $5,000 and contributed it to the district. Mr. Pritt also reports donations of textbooks and other materials from as far away as Maryland, the District of Columbia, Ohio, and Kansas.

"It' been very heart-warming," he says.

Vol. 05, Issue 19, Page 4

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