Team effort after weekend flood prevents Foster Elementary from canceling classes

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Major flooding damage over the weekend almost caused a local elementary school to call off classes, but quick action by the principal and Jefferson County Public Schools operations staff enabled the school to open its doors on time.

Foster Traditional Academy Principal Robert Gunn said he was alerted around 3:30 p.m. Sunday that the fire alarm was going off at his school on 41st Street, near I-264 and Hale Avenue. 

Gunn immediately drove over to the school. Thankfully, he didn't find a fire, but that a busted water pipe on the second floor had caused a lot of damage and left a huge mess.

"It was a bad situation," Gunn recalled. "There was standing water everywhere. It was especially bad in the kindergarten hallway, which also houses our early childhood and special needs classrooms. The upstairs was even worse -- that's where our third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms are."

Gunn said one of the firemen on scene "told me not to anticipate there being school all week based on the amount of water damage."

With less than 18 hours before his 580 students were to report back to class on Monday -- Gunn says he contacted his district officials. Within an hour, teams of people -- who normally have Sundays off -- began showing up at his school.

"I emailed all of my teachers, told them to be prepared that there may not be school for a few days," he said. "We had ceiling tiles down, books were damaged, supplies were lost. In addition, the water shorted the electricity, so we were without power for a period of time."

But the crews who showed up to help were not going to let that deter them.

"We had a group of people here from about 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. to clean up and get things dry," Gunn said. "It was because of their efforts that we were able to have school a few hours later."

Gunn said by the time his students began walking into the building around 8:30 a.m. on Monday, "almost everything was back to normal."

"Sure, there were some big ceiling tiles missing and we had huge fans in the hallways, but for the most part, they were able to pick up where they left off on Friday," he said. "Our custodians, staff and teachers deserve huge credit for helping ensure that our students were able to transition back and have a great day of school."

Officials had to destroy a lot of items, many of which were just brought in by families on the first day of school on Aug. 10.

"Crayons, pencils, paper...a lot of that was lost," he said. "Teachers also lost a lot of individual items they had in their classrooms -- eight large carpets, boxes of supplies."

Among all that was lost, Gunn says the number one item missed by teachers is the large Post-It brand self-stick easel pad paper.

Textbooks and some of the damaged supplies have been reordered, he said.

"The district has been really wonderful at helping us get back on our feet," Gunn said. 

"There have been times I've been frustrated with a slow response from the district on different issues over the years, but I cannot say enough about what happened over the weekend," he said. "It truly was a team effort."

JCPS chief operations officer Michael Raisor, who was among those who showed up at the school and stayed for hours to help with the cleanup, said the district is continuing to monitor the situation for any mold issues.

"It's too early to give a dollar amount of how much damage was done, but most of it will be covered by insurance," Raisor said. "We had to throw out a bunch of stuff and we are in the process of doing an inventory of the value and assess all the technology that got wet to see if it's still functional."

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