By REBECCA RAKOCZY, Special To The Bulletin | Published October 1, 2009
The floodwaters of the Yellow River may have receded, but for nine days school has been out for St. John Neumann students in Gwinnett County, as cleaning and restoration efforts continue at the school.
The school and church are located on Tom Smith Road, and the Yellow River sits below the property. But heavy rains crested the normally placid river to epic levels beyond flood stage, rising over the parking lot and onto school property. More than a foot of water from the river covered the Lilburn school gymnasium, and at least four inches flooded the first floor of the school, as well as the church’s fellowship hall.
When it was determined that the flood waters were continuing to rise last week, St. John Neumann assistant principal Nancy Puckett called teachers in to quickly move computers and books to higher ground. It was good timing. Although some books have been slightly damaged by the humidity in the building, the computers were spared.
“By God’s grace the only thing we lost was the particle board stuff,” said Puckett.
Damage includes carpeting, teachers’ desks and bookcases, as well as gymnasium equipment, including the mat covering around the steel poles in the gym, and mats around a newly purchased volleyball judge bench, Puckett said.
“We’re on our third dumpster full of ruined furniture,” she said.
Classrooms had to be sealed off and the air scrubbed; a professional restoration and remodeling company has come for fungal and mold removal and water damage. It was recommended that the kindergarten through eighth-grade school remain closed until it was completely cleaned. The school had initially planned to reopen Sept. 29; that didn’t happen when it was determined the building had a higher than acceptable spore count, she said.
“There is no way we would put any child or staff member in that building unless we were totally sure it was safe,” said Puckett.
Teachers and parent volunteers were told to stay away until Sunday, Oct. 4, when there will be a massive move-back-in day for the school, if all goes well with mold and water removal efforts. Then school will resume Monday, Oct. 5.
School principal James Anderson was trying to determine if the lost school days could be made up through existing flexible days in the academic calendar, she said.
The school will be accepting monetary donations for desks and bookcases, Puckett said.
The total dollar amount of damages to the property is not yet determined.