Georgia schools chief sees flood-ruined school

Kathy Cox also visits displaced kids in new classrooms

A third of the children in the class had to flee their flood-damaged homes in the Austell area. All of them lost their school, Clarkdale Elementary, which was inundated last week.

“They’re staying with friends, in hotels, with relatives, in the Cobb Civic Center — they’re all over the place,” Snodgrass said of her charges.

One 9-year-old finishes his homework at school because at night he helps his father tear out drywall from the family’s ruined home, Snodgrass said.

In the first week after the flood, the priority is to settle the children into their new environment and begin again.

On Thursday, Georgia Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox visited the kids in their new classroom at Austell Intermediate School, which is housing more than 200 of the students. Cox also visited Compton Elementary School, which is housing more than 200 other students. And she toured the ruined Clarkdale, as well.

“I can’t imagine having to start all over,” Cox said.

Clarkdale, built in the 1960s, is a muddy, rank mess. Piles of damp videocassette recorders, televisions and overhead projectors sit on the floor of the cafeteria, where officials inventory the losses. The dirty high-water mark reached above the clocks on the wall, almost to the ceiling.

Workers are tearing out the insides of the school.

The Cobb County School District is waiting for a settlement from its insurance company, said Gordon Pritz, associate superintendent.

Will the school district rebuild?

“It’s not very probable,” Pritz said.

When the floodwaters rose, the children at Clarkdale grabbed their backpacks and ran out the door. The last things Snodgrass took were the class pictures of her students on her desk.

“Coming here is a fresh start,” Snodgrass said of Austell Intermediate School.

The children from Clarkdale sit together with their same classmates and teachers to reduce the stress of the transition.

It’s like a school within another school.

The adjustment was scary for some students at first.

Little Jacob Sowell, 5, was sent to Compton after the flood.

He cried and cried when he saw the outside of the school.

“He said, ‘Please don’t leave me here, Mama, this is not my school,’ ” said his aunt, Sherry McGinty.

“He was just crying,” she said. “It was so pitiful.”

But then Jacob saw his teachers and his classmates and began to calm down, McGinty said.

The day of the flood, the boy walked through water above his knees, his aunt said.

“We poured water out of his shoes,” McGinty said. “It was terrible.”

At Austell Intermediate School on Thursday, Snodgrass passed out donated Beanie Babies to the fourth-graders, who drew a collective gasp of delight when they saw the basket of stuffed animals.

Each student received a journal to write about how their Beanie Baby adapts to the new school.

“For it to be the first week back, it’s working out,” Snodgrass said as the students left for the day.

“Everybody is pulling together to make it happen.”

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