Alexander City Schools canceled class at all of its schools Wednesday due to storm damage Tuesday evening, most notably at Jim Pearson Elementary School where 8 to 10 of its classrooms flooded.
Stephens and Radney elementary schools also suffered flood damage on a smaller scale, while Alexander City Middle School and Benjamin Russell High School were spared. All five campuses still have power though phone lines may be down, Alexander City Schools superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford said.
Across the three elementary schools, many Alex City Schools employees turned up to survey the damage Wednesday morning despite classes being canceled. The kindergarten building at Jim Pearson bore the brunt of the storm damage.
"It was 8 to 10 classrooms that had flood damage from the excessive amounts of water," Lankford said. "It backed up the sewer and so we had some unsanitary water coming into some of the classrooms."
Lankford said the school system contacted water cleanup company Servpro Tuesday night, with cleanup technicians still at work as of Wednesday morning. By 8:30 a.m., the workers had most of the several inches of orange-brown water cleared, leaving behind a layer of caked mud and a few puddles.
Lankford hopes the damage will only cost the students one missed day.
"We're making contingencies now," he said. "(The teachers) are going to go in and inventory classrooms, see what we can pull out that's not affected and then see if we can relocate classrooms so we can open schools as quickly as possible. And my goal is to have schools back open by (Thursday)."
With the rest of Jim Pearson left largely untouched, Lankford's plan is to consolidate some of the smaller classrooms with fewer than a dozen students. Some of the flooded classrooms may be salvaged as soon as Wednesday afternoon.
"Even the 8 to 10 classrooms that were affected, there's probably three or four of them we can get up and going by today," Lankford said Wednesday morning. "They weren't as bad."
For the past schoolyear, Jim Pearson has undergone renovations with much of its new structure already intact, minus the roof. However, no damage was caused to the partially constructed addition. Lankford said he does not expect the storm damage to affect or delay the project.
As for the other elementary schools, flooding at Radney was limited to a few hallways, Lankford said, and to one classroom at Stephens where a hole in the roof caused water to drip down through the ceiling tiles. Third-grade teacher Evelyn McClendon, the sole Stephens Elementary teacher whose classroom seems to have been affected, said a few items suffered water damage which came through the ceiling near the door.
The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Tallapoosa County shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday evening, with strong winds, flooding and at least one lightning-induced fire accounting for much of the damage across Alexander City. As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, several thousand Tallapoosa County residents are still without power.