FEMA Surveys Dallas ISD Storm Damage

Steven Pickering
October 30, 2019 - 6:15 am

Austin York/KRLD

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - Crews from FEMA will be visiting several Dallas ISD campuses to survey damage from this month's tornado.

District officials have said it appears likely that at least three schools will need to be completely rebuilt and several more had significant damage from the storm on October 20th.

"Another set of structural engineers are in the buildings to assess long term damage. This is going to take a while. It's probably closer to Thanksgiving to where we have final numbers of the cost of the damage," Deputy Superintendent Scott Layne told School Board members. "FEMA will be out looking at all of our schools because there is funding that can be provided...we will know more about that as we go along."

The Dallas ISD Board has voted to grant emergency purchasing authority to administrators to buy supplies needed to help recover from the storm. The district's insurance policy should cover almost all of the damage to school buildings.

"Our liability relates to the deductible. All of our contents and even the personal contents of the teachers are covered under the policy we have," said Dwayne Thompson, Chief of Financial Services. Under the policy, the district would be responsible for either $250,000 or one percent of the value of the damage at each campus, whichever is higher, with a cap at $2 million. "Given the number of buildings, we estimated we will hit the total outlay of $2 million," Thompson said.

Outside sources could assist the district with those expenses not covered by insurance. "There are other entities that may even help offset the deductible," said Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa. "There are federal entities and other entities that are currently assessing that opportunity."

Dallas ISD officials are also looking that the long-term prospects for rebuilding the schools that endured the most damage. Those are Thomas Jefferson High School, Cary Middle School and Walnut Hill Elementary School. Officials are considering new configurations for those campuses as part of the rebuilding process.

"I don't think it's too early to begin thinking about what we would like to do in the future to rebuild these three campuses," said Deputy Superintendent Scott Layne. Architects have already been discussing possibilities for the Thomas Jefferson High School campus. "There's options here for a 6 through 12 campus or even a K-12 campus with a complete separation of the elementary school," Layne said, "which would allow us to possibly utilize the Walnut Hill site for some other type of program."

While any decisions about the future of those schools is a long way off, Board Members indicated they would be willing to look at those ideas. "I love the fact that you're already thinking about how to re-do T.J.," said Board Member Dustin Marshall. "The facade of T.J. has not been impressive for a long time. Curb appeal matters. When we rebuild T.J. I hope we do it as a temple of education and it has that curb appeal that attracts families in that neighborhood. I would love it if we would consider a pre-K through 12 school at that campus."

Trustees on Tuesday also expressed their appreciation to district staffers for getting kids back to class so quickly after the tornado. "Thank you for all the hard work and making this happen," said Board Member Dan Micciche. "It has been a unifying episode for the entire city and the district...and we're all very, very proud of the work you've done."