Water stands on the floor of Richmond High School’s Drafting Technology classroom on the first floor. Supplied by RCS

Students watching live instruction online during repairs

After “extensive” damage from flooding at Richmond High School during its winter recess, teachers are leading live classes online this week for the first time ever while repairs are completed.

Richmond Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Curtis Wright said community members and district employees are collaborating well to serve students remotely this week, reopen the school as soon as possible, and replace destroyed items.

“The damage is quite massive compared to random water damage in a home,” Wright said.

Wright said the bitter cold temperatures led to a broken pipe near the second floor’s math wing.

“It couldn’t have been in a worse place,” said Wright about the pipe’s location and subsequent damage. “We wish it was isolated to a corner or a wing, but it was in an area we preferred it had not been.”

Although much of the second floor was spared, standing water seeped through the ceiling to the first floor, ravaging the school’s main corridor from the office toward the cafeteria.

The first floor’s damaged area primarily includes science and industrial technology classrooms along a hallway that alumni remember as about a quarter mile in length.

Wright said the cafeteria initially appears to have been spared, but detailed assessments are continuing.

In addition to ruining ceiling tiles and flooring along the water’s route, classroom materials and student possessions in lockers weren’t spared. Fortunately, Wright said quite a bit has been salvaged.

Wright said insurance adjusters are still compiling repair and replacement costs, so he was not able to provide an estimate before press time.

After discovering the destruction, RCS officials determined the extensive repairs could not be completed before students were to return Monday, and conditions were not safe for classes to continue on site.

On Thursday, RCS announced the damage to the community and the district’s plans for required live virtual instruction from Jan. 9-13. The district already had an eLearning day scheduled Jan. 6.

Before Wright joined the district, RCS officials offered eLearning as needed during the pandemic, with students obtaining assignments online but not watching live instruction.

Wright said he believes concerns about students’ high-speed access and infrastructure might have led to the district not fully exploring live online instruction at that time. This week, teachers will conduct Google Meets for each class period and students will watch on their Chromebooks.

Students whose electronic devices were destroyed are receiving support so they can keep up with their classmates.

While educators are known for adapting quickly to changing circumstances, Wright asked for families to extend grace to teachers during these unprecedented times and to communicate when they need assistance or want to provide feedback about the new online experience.

Wright said faculty met Thursday morning and are “collaboratively and collectively supporting each other.”

Community organizations and RCS employees are stepping up to assist in new ways.

Students without WiFi can visit one of four help centers around the city where RHS staff will assist from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. Morrisson-Reeves Library will host students, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County is opening its Jeffers (1717 S. L St.), First Bank (855 N. 12th St.) and McDaniel (1900 W. Main St.) units.

Teens also can use WiFi in RHS, Starr, Vaile, Community Youth Services, Test, Westview and Fairview parking areas.

Lunches also will be provided for students studying at home. They can enter their nearest elementary or intermediate/middle school’s main door and check in from 1:30-2:15 p.m.

Although lamenting the damage, Wright said this experience gives RCS an opportunity to show its ability to overcome adverse circumstances, and the community will be proud of the completed renovations.

While no other RCS buildings were flooded, Wright said the district is among several others around the state recovering from weather damage. All are receiving guidance from Indiana Department of Education.

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.