When Tropical Storm Harvey’s flooding damaged several neighborhoods in the Cinco Ranch, it also devastated one of their Katy ISD campuses: Betty Sue Creech Elementary School at 5905 S. Mason Road, Katy. Going on three months later, staff and students said they are “making it work.”
The building took on between 2-4 feet of water, and community members—many of whom were already displaced from their homes—had to set up camp at the University of Houston-Cinco Ranch campus at 4242 S. Mason Road, Katy, starting on Sept. 11. That building was actually set to be sold but according to Mike Rosen, executive director of communications for UH, the transaction was cancelled so KISD could lease the building until the end of the school year.
Rosen said the campus is still for sale and that KISD had expressed interest in the land.
Available space has dropped from the 100,000 square feet and 55 classrooms at Creech’s original campus, to 37,000 square feet and 42 classrooms at the newly-dubbed “Creech University,” Assistant Principal Sally Gupton said.
Eight portable classroom buildings were opened at the site in late October but some homerooms are still doubled up, with 25 to 45 students per classroom. Gupton said teachers who were already partnering at the old school did the same at Creech University, but that students are not showing signs of heartache.
“The kids have been very resilient,” Gupton said. “And I think [the transition]has run smoothly as expected.”
The school went from 882 students before Harvey to 715 in late October, which Gupton said was partially because some flooded-out parents tired of making longer commutes from their temporary housing. KISD allowed displaced students to attend district schools closer to wherever they are currently staying.
Staff, students make due
Gupton and Principal Euberta Lucas said classes are carrying on as normal but that some extracurricular programs, such as drama, were suspended due to a lack of space and resources. Teachers are still given time and designated space for planning, they said.
For teachers that experienced flooding of their own, time off was approved for them to complete repairs and other recovery needs. Kindergarten teacher Mindy Warren has been living with various family members since her home flooded, but said coming back to work after the storm was a relief.
“It was really nice to get away from all the craziness at home and it was nice to be here with all my kids I had been away from for two weeks, “ she said.
One challenge that cannot be overcome is the lack of a gymnasium. Physical education teacher Tim Mueller said his classes are held outside whenever possible, or in the cafeteria.
“We’re having to be creative with the activities that we do,” he said. “We feel that in the long run this is going to make us better teachers because we know how to do things in a smaller area.”
Creech lost all its gym equipment but several district schools, as well groups such as Wilson Sporting Goods, the American Heart Association and the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance have donated replacements.
Fifth-grader Abigail Borchardt, 10, said she adjusted well to her new school surroundings. She was there when her home flooded and her family of five has been living in an apartment ever since.
“What the upsetting part was I got to see [the water]all come in so then we were emotional,” she said. “I slept upstairs that night with the water sitting and that’s when we evacuated.”
She said they would likely be in the apartment for at least another five months. Getting to come back to school and see friends was a welcome change.
When Creech moves back into its building next year, Lucas said she hopes to throw a welcome back celebration. And although the school is expected to be rebuilt according to its original state, she wants it to still seem familiar.
“We had lots of walls that were painted with murals over the last 17, 18 years that the kids and our parents really love and enjoy seeing when then walk into the building,” she said. “That’s one of our biggest things, just making sure—it’s not something new, it kind of still it feels like home when it’s all said and done.”