Flood wall planned around school

July 16, 2009 3:52:42 PM PDT
One of Galveston Island's oldest schools still has not reopened, 10 months after Hurricane Ike roared ashore. What the school is doing now is unique to Galveston, and maybe even to the state, if not the country. School officials have been asked to build a wall all the way around the building.Central Middle School is centrally located near Galveston City Hall and suffered a double whammy of storm surges from the bay and the gulf when Hurricane Ike slammed ashore last September. The result is that the school was closed and has not reopened. However, FEMA money, in addition to money from their insurance claim, means Central is being rebuilt.

Fred Niccum, the Galveston school district director of facilities, gave Eyewitness News exclusive access inside the school. Central was Galveston's and Texas' first all black high school and was originally built more than 100 years ago. Saving the historic school is considered a priority. Another priority is to rebuild according to federal regulations, which includes following a unique standard, building a wall all the way around the school.

"(A brick) wall (is what) we're going to put up around the school for flood protection," Niccum explained. "It's going to be right at six feet. ... We are sure that this will prevent future flooding into the building."

Entrances and loading docks will be equipped with floodgates that will activate during a storm. An extreme measure GISD officials say they have to follow.

"If we happen to have another hurricane later this summer, or in the future, we will not get paid FEMA money to rebuild," Niccum said. "So it's incumbent upon the district to take mitigation efforts and do what's right to keep this from possibly happening again."

FEMA money is expected to pay for 90 percent of this project. At least seven bids will be presented to the Galveston School Board next week, ranging from eight to nine million dollars to rebuild. The FEMA money, coupled with a $1 million insurance claim check, should provide enough for the rebuilding. The school is expected to reopen for classes in 2010.

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