Good afternoon Bobcat Parents, Students, and Staff,
I do not have many words to describe what everyone is experiencing and feeling after the derecho storm of August 10, 2020. After a disaster of this magnitude, only a few words come to mind: perseverance, caring, gratitude, kindness, unselfishness, community, and service.
I am thankful for our students who have stepped up to help their neighbors. Various groups of students have assisted friends, families and neighbors to clean up the storm debris. Our athletic teams and fine arts performers are pitching in. Our teams, when possible, are holding practice amidst the chaos of a multi-county disaster to maintain camaraderie and structure in their life. The past 5 months of COVID-19 have taken a toll on the ability of students to be with each other. I heard today that our coaches, sponsors, and directors encouraged our students to help with the storm clean-up as a first priority and with permission from their parents. While we are not orchestrating a team clean-up at this time due to unsafe conditions, we do encourage our students to help their friends, families, and neighbors. We will continue practices (when appropriate and possible for each student) to maintain a sense of structure and normalcy.
During the past several days I am extremely grateful for our staff and construction crews who had “boots on the ground” quickly Monday after the storm. We began working the problems immediately after the wrath of the storm. Benton Community School District received substantial damage as did all of our communities. Like most, we have no power, and district internet service is down which complicates all recovery efforts.
In regards to the current state of our school district, all buildings and grounds have damage. All grounds will need attention before we can be up and running again. We have major tree damage at all buildings. The High School/Middle School sustained damage to the auditorium roof, gym roof, and several other roof sections. The gym roof and nearby sections are repairable once we complete water mitigation and clean-up of the building. The auditorium roof, however, sustained a direct wind downdraft causing massive water damage to the auditorium. The roof will need to be replaced and we are doubtful the auditorium is usable this school year. Mr. Arnold and the fine arts staff are already discussing alternative ideas and plans.
Our sports complex also received serious damage. The press box was blown over on top of the center bleacher section. The concessions, track, turf, and visitor bleachers sustained some damage. As we walked the campus to assess the damage, a very daunting reality of the force of this storm is seeing a Musco light pole completely torn out of the cement footings and tossed aside like a toy.
Norway Intermediate Center sustained extensive damage to the entire roof. Our onsite contractors are installing a semi-permanent roof until we are able to undergo roof replacement construction. As you might guess, areas inside of the building sustained water damage. Clean up, mitigation, and de-humidification is underway.
Keystone Elementary Center sustained mostly tree damage around the grounds. At our Atkins Elementary Center, the damage is concentrated to an uprooted tree leaning on the building as well as many other downed trees.
We are still in the process of assessing the extent of all damage. A delayed start to the school year is one of our critical topics under consideration. We ask that our parents, students, and staff plan ahead for a delayed start. We still have many unknowns in regard to the mitigation, repairs, inspections, and clean up so nailing down the exact start date for school is still very difficult to do. The decision for how long the delay will last will be determined next week.
We anticipate our Activities schedule to be greatly impacted by the damage to our athletic fields and auditorium. Our Activities Director began working on a wide range of options with other schools immediately after as it became evident our fine arts and sports complex were compromised. We will provide updated information as soon as it is available. Please be patient with forthcoming information as we have limited means to communicate with other schools.
Our staff who were to begin next week (Aug. 17 – 21) will not report to work. Please continuing checking reports and updates. Staff who have been notified by their supervisor or director will report to work. Our buildings and grounds (other than practice fields) are closed and off-limits until further notice.
We will continue to communicate as we assess and learn more.
Thank you, please stay safe!
Dr. Pamela Ewell, Superintendent
Benton Community Schools
Central Office 304 1st Street Van Horne, Iowa 52346 (319) 228-8701