Flooded during summer storm, Lewis Cass Jr.-Sr. HS is ready for start of school year

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WALTON, Ind.—Less than one month ago, parts of Central Indiana were struck by severe weather, flooding and even tornadoes. Cass County was among the hardest hit areas.

The superintendent of Southeastern School Corporation received a phone call early July 11th informing him that the basement at Lewis Cass Junior-Senior High School was filling up with water.

“You can tell how high the water was,” said Superintendent Dr. Tim Garland pointing to water stains on the basement walls weeks after the flood, “anything on the lower shelves were ruined.”

Roughly 30 inches of water filled the basement, pouring in faster than the pumps could take it away. Maintenance crews were able to get the remaining standing water out within a few hours, but the damage was farther reaching.

The school’s heating and cooling system was compromised when water damaged and broke the system’s motors. Several electrical panels were burned out and damaged, and needed to be replaced.

At the time, Garland said he feared that repairing the broken systems would mean delaying scheduled classroom renovations before the school year started on August 3rd.

CBS4 spoke with Garland days before school started, he said everything was back on track.

“Actually it was a big community effort. We had teachers, staff, I came in with my family—it’s amazing, everybody just really pitched in and really started helping,” Garland explained that when news got out about the flooding, volunteers started offering assistance.

Several maintenance workers were pulled off classroom renovations to work on repairing the heating and air conditioning. They were able to repair one of the motors quickly after the flood, and were waiting on replacements to fix the backup motors running the system.

Garland says the electrical panels still need some work, but they were redone and repaired enough to keep them running.

“Right now our damage is right around $100,000 for the pumps and the motors and things like that,” said Garland, “with all the construction we did this summer, it did take a back step to a lot of other things we’re doing.”

Southeastern School Corporation is in the process of upgrading and expanding its schools. This past spring, the district passed a $10 million bond to furnish those improvements over the next 13 years. Redoing the classrooms at all the schools was the first item on the list.

“Basically a new classroom without tearing down the walls,” Garland explained how each classroom was stripped down to the concrete walls, repainted, outfitted with new ceilings and LED lights, new carpeting and electrical, and upgraded technology.

While work was being done to fix the problems the flood created in the basement, Garland said volunteers helped finish the rest of the cosmetic work upstairs.

“What we’re striving for is family here and it really felt like all the family jumped in and helped out and got us where we needed to be,” Garland says he wasn’t worried about meeting the August 3rd school year deadline, citing his capable staff and the outpouring of community support he received to get all the projects done.

“It was one of those ‘yes, can we help? And if so, how?’ things, and a lot of our administrative staff already had to report so instead of wearing their shirt and tie that day, they wore their shorts and t-shirts and they worked for two or three days.”

For now, the remaining bond improvement projects are on schedule.

Southeastern School Corporation will break ground on a new gymnasium in the rear of the high school in the spring. They’ll then start work on Lewis Cass Polytechnic Academy in Galveston; a project which Garland says will give students a different opportunity to meet and work with manufacturers on technical learning skills.

The district will bid out the remaining projects this fall, and Garland said they anticipate starting outside construction next summer.

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