The weekend’s flooding in several Northeastern West Virginia counties damaged the Harman School, a roughly 170-student, prekindergarten-12th grade school whose community rallied to save it five years ago.
Randolph County school system and state School Building Authority officials said Monday they’re still assessing the extent of the damage.
Several inches of rain fell rapidly Saturday night, The Associated Press reported. Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency in Grant, Pendleton, Preston, Randolph and Tucker counties, citing flood damage to homes, businesses, roads and bridges.
Around 1:30 p.m. Monday, Randolph Board of Education President Amanda Smith said power and water service had been restored to the school, but the sewer system was still being worked on. She said school system officials don’t believe the interior suffered too much damage.
“We’ve invested millions,” she said of the dollars put into Harman. “And I’d like to see every opportunity exhausted before a decision is made to close the school. It would have to be a structural-integrity issue.”
Since 2016, the SBA board has given $1.2 million to Randolph for Harman renovations. That included funds to help fully reopen the building after part of its ceiling collapsed in summer 2014, SBA Architectural Services Director Ben Ashley said.
Most of the SBA money was for electrical and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning upgrades that eliminated the need for a boiler system.
“It really looked like a new school, by the time everything was finished, and I just hate that it sounds like there was water that could’ve affected a lot of that,” Ashley said.
Ashley said community work and fundraising in 2014 initially got the school reopened after the ceiling collapse.
“Our heart goes out to everybody that was affected by floods, and we’re certainly with them and there to help them in whatever way we can,” he said.
He said Gabe Devono and Debbie Schmidlen had told him that SBA staff members would visit the school Tuesday.
Smith said Devono retired as Randolph’s schools superintendent effective Monday — he announced his retirement before the flood — and Schmidlen, who has been assistant superintendent for the past two years, has now assumed the top job.
The biggest concerns, Smith said, are the wider effects to the town of Harman, whose infrastructure challenges could affect the school; damage to the land around the school; possible damage in the school’s basement, where the boiler is; and possible damage to the new HVAC system.
She said each room has an HVAC unit that is vented to the outside, and the vents are relatively low to the ground.
“There was still much water left in the basement,” Smith said. “As they pumped water out, more water would come in, the ground was so saturated.”
She said the furnace in the basement wasn’t being used because of the newly added electrical HVAC system.
“Sidewalks are displaced,” she said. “The school sits right next to a library, and the black top between them has been raised and shifted.”