The following message is from Dr. Bill Russell, Owego Apalachin superintendent of schools.
Greetings from the Owego Apalachin School District …
Like many of you, and so many in our community, our school district has been hit hard by the flood disaster. Now that we have some of our communication capabilities restored, I want to give you an update on our status.
Staff members can learn more details at an all-staff meeting at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, September 12) in the OFA gymnasium.
We are also planning community update meetings on our schools for Tuesday (September 13) in both Owego and Apalachin.
So, here’s a brief update.
Apalachin Elementary School – Did not suffer any flood damage.
Owego Elementary School – Was completely surrounded by water from Owego Creek, up to the window sills. Approximately 2 feet of water and mud was everywhere in the building. The building is unusable, and will require a major renovation effort to bring it back to a safe and useful condition.
We have already restored power to OES, and Peak Environmental is working to “de-water” that building as quickly as possible, to contain further damage.
Owego Free Academy – Took ground water through the floor drain in the LGI, up over the stage and four rows of floor risers. The Fitness Center, Cisco Lab, Project Lead the Way Lab, and Wood Shop all had creek water about waist deep.
The boiler room, pumps, co-generation facilities, and (most importantly) the electrical switch gear and transformers were all in waist deep creek water. This was a critical problem because those rooms house most of the infrastructure for the whole school complex, and the electrical distribution capacity for the high school, the middle school, and the bus garage. Nothing (HVAC, plumbing, lights and outlets, the pool, the computer networks, the environmental controls, the fire safety system, etc.) works without that.
Owego Apalachin Middle School – Largely escaped unscathed, with the exception of ground water in the orchestra pit of the auditorium. It soaked the first 5-6 rows of seats, the carpets, and came up on the floor to the first 12 rows of seats.
Athletic Fields – The creeks turned our playing fields into their new creek beds. We sustained heavy damage to the baseball fields and the football field and track. To be honest, we haven’t had time to take a thorough inventory of damage to our whole athletic complex, but from what we’ve seen, it will need substantial restoration work.
Bus Garage – Did not suffer any flood damage. It was without power or water until yesterday (Saturday), but the building and the buses are all in fine shape.
District Office (Talcott Street) – Like all of the Flats, the District Office took on substantial water in the first floor (Board Room, Special Ed offices, conference room, file storage, and furnace/boiler rooms.) There was apparently over 4 feet of creek water in there. The second floor wasn’t damaged, but may not be habitable until the first floor damage is mitigated.
Maintenance Building – Like in 2006, the maintenance facility on Elm Street suffered very heavy damage, with 6-7 feet of river water in the building and in the old bus garage (which we use for storage). The loss of supplies, tools, and equipment there may be severe.
Owego Apalachin schools and district facilities were among the hardest hit in the region, though obviously many others were severely impacted as well.
Many people, including employees and contractors, have been working tirelessly since Wednesday night to protect our schools and begin the process of recovery from this disaster. We have concentrated on the middle school/high school complex, and have made terrific strides.
Most importantly, Dean Rypkema and his team of OFA grads at NELCorp Electric were able to restore all our electrical power capabilities for the whole Owego campus (excepting the athletic lights, which have not yet been a priority). By mid-afternoon on Saturday, power was restored and our maintenance crews began testing all the infrastructure systems throughout the complex.
The news is all good on that front, and we hope to pass our life safety and health department inspections tomorrow (Monday).
We will be meeting with our architects and engineers (Highland Associates), construction management team (Bovis Lend Lease), insurance agent (Don Patterson), and Peak Environmental (Mark and Tim O’Rourke), plus our staff, to make a thorough assessment of the damage to all of our facilities and to begin planning the long-term recovery effort across the district.
RELOCATION OF OES STUDENTS AND STAFF
We received several offers of help from neighboring school districts and churches as we struggled to decide where to relocate nearly 600 elementary students (pre-K through 5), and 95 staff members. While all offers were gratifying, the best came from Union-Endicott, which offered to let us use their recently-closed Linnaeus West Elementary School (LW) on Route 26 near Day Hollow Road in Union.
After inspecting that facility, and seeing that it would provide a “turn-key” solution for us, we gratefully accepted Dr. McLeod’s offer. It is not large enough to house all of our OES students and staff, however, so we will make the following additional relocations for the coming months.
* UPK classes and staff from OES will move to Abide-in-the-Vine’s classrooms in the former Washington-Gladden school.
* Grades K-4 students and staff will be relocated to the West Elementary School in Union.
* Fifth-graders and their teachers and support staff will be integrated into classrooms in the OA middle school.
We will have a lot of work to do to quickly re-establish LW as a functioning elementary school, but we are already getting offers of help with furnishings, supplies and instructional materials from neighboring districts and community organizations.
Throughout this crisis, our goal has been to get our children and staff back in school as quickly as humanly possible. Our community has suffered mightily, and we all know it will be terrific news when we can bring our students and staff back to school, bringing a sense of normalcy back to at least a part of the community.
And we know the adults who have been so deeply affected will appreciate having their children back in school, knowing they’re safe and sound with their friends, teachers, and other staff, and freeing them to take on the monumental task of recovery in their own homes and businesses.
I hope staff members who are reading this can make it to Monday’s all-staff meeting (again, 2 p.m. at OFA). Community members and parents should look forward to announcement of school updates to the community on Tuesday.
I wish you all the best in these trying times.
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