Classes have resumed for all Pamlico County students, but not every school in the district is open.
The county’s middle school, located at 15526 NC 55 in Bayboro, remains closed, as crews work to ensure the flood-damaged building is safe for about 350 students and staff to return. In the meantime, the sixth-graders are temporarily housed at Fred A. Anderson Elementary School and the seventh- and eighth-graders are taking classes at the primary school.
For hours following the storm, up to 2 feet of floodwater sat inside the county’s middle school, destroying every ceiling and floor tile, the gymnasium floor, furniture and equipment. Steve Curtis, the district’s assistant superintendent, estimates cleanup, replacements and repairs would cost roughly $1.5 million.
“We don’t know what the damage is to the phone system, the security system, the intercom system – they may have to be replaced,” he said. “We had to take that into consideration.”
The school’s $1 million flood insurance policy will likely cover most of the costs, Curtis said. District leaders purchased private flood insurance for the middle school after the building flooded during Hurricane Irene in 2011. “We’re glad that we have it because we would be in a mess just like some of these other school districts in the eastern part of the state that do not have flood insurance,” he said.
Preliminary assessments indicate the policy would cover $720,000 worth of repairs, Curtis said. Even if the insurance company agrees to reimburse the district up to its maximum coverage, the school system must still rely on FEMA assistance and its state property insurance to cover the entire cost, Curtis said. “And we may still have to go to the county commissioners and request funding from them,” he said.
The middle school, located on the eastern side of the Bay River, was the only one in the district that flooded. The school, which is less than a quarter mile away from the water, sits in an area that’s vulnerable to flooding, said Lisa Jackson, the district's superintendent.
“We do feel like this is inevitable. It’s going to continue to happen, and we don’t want to have to continue to displace these children and this staff,” Jackson said.
Jackson says discussions about building a new middle school, possibly next to the district’s three other schools, have started. “I thought it was a pipe dream, until we literally met with some officials and it was brought to our attention,” she said. “Once we get through this and the devastation, it’s certainly conversations that we will start as soon as possible. I think our teachers need that hope and the students, too.”