Damage estimates ‘well into the millions’ as tornado clean up continues at North Central High School

Updated: Jan. 14, 2020 at 6:14 PM EST
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KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Multiple agencies continue clean-up efforts in and around North Central High School, more than three days after an EF2 tornado ripped through the school’s campus.

District officials said while they don’t have a specific number, damage estimates are expected to reach into the millions of dollars.

“Because it damaged 100 percent of the roof and the roof was destroyed, we have a lot of water penetration and once that gets into cement boards, drywall, carpet, all of our wiring, technology is really destroyed,” said Superintendent Shane Robbins. “It’s a mess.”

Tuesday marked the first time teachers and district officials entered the building to check out the damage and see what is salvageable. Anything not destroyed by the tornado is likely sitting under days’ worth of rainfall, Robbins said.

Insurance adjusters spent the day at the school surveying the damage. The district said additional manpower was called in due to the size and extent of the damage.

Seniors, like Madison Dixon, are anxious to begin their final semester at the district’s old vocational building. The district anticipates Wednesday will be a shorter day for students and staff to get acclimated to their new surroundings. Because the building does not have a cafeteria, Robbins said the district will be utilizing food trucks to help feed students.

Dixon and other senior classmates said they are also concerned about graduation, which is typically held in the football stadium. The area suffered some of the worst damage, with concrete stands torn apart and the press box was thrown off its foundation.

“We want to graduate from North Central High School,” Dixon said. “We’ve wanted this since we were little and it’s what I’m most worried about.”

Robbins said he feels bad students won’t be able to finish out the school year in their school building, so he is making it his priority to ensure graduation can still take place at the stadium.

“I talked to the contractors already and said if you can demolish and get the stadium pieces that are in bad shape, removed, so we can make the site safe, we’ll have graduation,” he said.

The district received 28 new buses from districts around the state with the help of the Department of Education and State Superintendent Molly Spearman. More than 30 of the district’s buses in its previous fleet were destroyed by the storm.

Previously, Robbins said 14 buses would run between the middle school and high school to drop off students. However, he said very few of those buses were full. To reduce congestion at the old ATEC building, the district plans to consolidate its transportation into three or four full buses that will transport students to the vocational building. The district said if parents who haven’t previously used the district’s transportation system are interested in doing so because of the relocation, they can reach out to have their children added.

All other bus stops will remain the same.

Insurance adjusters will be on site this week to complete their assessment of the damage.

“The first structural engineer did say that the walls themselves were very stable but when our adjuster looks at it they’re going to look at the other extraneous pieces of this and if the expense to renovate is greater than 50 percent or so, they’ll make us demolish it and start fresh,” he said.

The district is publishing a comprehensive map of the new facility for parents and students on its website and social media pages.

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