Saturday, April 12, 2008

TOP STORY > >Schools regroup after disruptions

Leader staff writers

Dan Ebbs, principal at Sylvan Hills High School, which suffered extensive damage from the April 3 tornado, hopes to have the school repaired in three weeks.

“Things are going well. We’re getting in all academics and the time for them,” Ebbs said. “It has taken a lot of cooperation, coordination and support of a lot of people to pull this off — the city of Sherwood, the police, the school.”

Underclassmen are attending the high school, while seniors are at the Bill Harmon Recreation Center, where breakfast and lunch are served for the students.

“But we have a senior-pass policy where some of the students can leave for lunch,” said Ebbs.

There are enough classrooms, though a few classes have had to double up wherever possible. The school is concentrating on the core curriculum, the courses that seniors need to graduate this May. Electives are on hold, for now.

“For those students repeating acourse or needing to pick one up, work is brought to and from the middle school, which is working out well,” Ebbs said.

“I hope that we’ll be back in three weeks. Our fingers are crossed,” the principal said.

The wind and rain that blew through the Beebe area at noon Thursday came so hard and fast that water ran under the doors at three of the school buildings and stood above the bottoms of low-hung windows on the primary building.

“I have never seen a rain like that before,” said Hal Crisco, the assistant superintendent in charge of the grounds and transportation.

By the time the storm hit, all the students had been moved to the two tornado shelters on campus, Crisco said. The city’s tornado sirens didn’t sound because White County was never under a tornado warning. But Crisco said his office was monitoring the weather on the Internet as well as being in contact with the police department and it was clear that a bad storm was headed their way.

Crisco said water ran over the bridges on the campus and under the doors at the 11-12-grade high school and junior high but the problem was worse at the intermediate building where debris from the hard rain stopped up grates and the water that was supposed to be drained away ran inside and filled the hallways one-inch deep.

Although plans are in the works for a tornado shelter at the McRae school that is now Beebe Middle School, Crisco said the fifth and sixth grade students at that facility took shelter in the hallways.

Crisco said the students and staff spent about 20 minutes in the shelters.

Although the public is allowed to use the shelter at the high school when classes are out, Police Chief Wayne Ballew said no one but students and staff were allowed in when school is in session. During the storms last Thursday night, about 300 area residents used the high school shelter, Ballew said.

Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson, who owns Warehouse Furniture on Dewitt Henry Drive, said the ditches on his side of the street were overflowing and water came through the doors into his business. And like everyone else, he vacuumed it up. But the rain over the past weeks also has been helpful in a way, he said, because it has shown where runoff is a problem.

“You could say we’ve been using it to our advantage,” the mayor said. “We’ve been cutting streets and putting in tiles since this rain started.”

The city has spent thousands on the work that the mayor said he believes will relieve some flooding problems in the future.

In Cabot, which has been known in the past for flooding problems, Public Works Director Jerrel Maxwell says the water ran off quickly with no reports of any homes flooding.

“It has all run down now,” Maxwell said Friday morning. But we were like every other city. We had a lot of water.”

The police department, in the basement of city hall, flooded as it occasionally does in heavy rain, he said.