The West school district is still waiting to learn how much insurance money it might get to help rebuild schools that were damaged in the April 17 explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant.
Superintendent Marty Crawford told the school board Wednesday that the administration met with representatives from the district’s insurance provider, Argo Group, and its subsidiary, Trident. But the companies have yet to complete their facilities studies on the damaged buildings.
West’s intermediate, middle and high schools all suffered significant damage in the blast that killed 15 residents and damaged up to 300 homes.
The intermediate students were shuffled to the elementary campus, which was farther away from the blast zone and remained intact, while West’s middle and high school students are holding classes in Connally Independent School District’s former intermediate campus.
A second meeting with the insurance representatives is set for Thursday. But the slow pace of the assessment and limited information about a potential settlement are halting the district’s construction plans.
“We have schoolchildren that we’re responsible for, and I can’t explain to you how imperative it is that we get back to school here in West as quickly as possible,” Crawford said.
“We’re very appreciative of what Connally has done for us, but our kids are West Trojans, and I can’t express the urgency we have to get this going.”
West is looking at demolishing its high school and intermediate campus at the recommendation of Fort Worth architecture firm Huckabee Associates Inc., which performed a preliminary structural assessment of school properties damaged in the explosion.
The Phase 1 project recommended by the firm includes repairs to and demolition of some damaged facilities at the middle school, such as the cafeteria and gym. That would allow the district to set up portable buildings at the campus to house the district’s seventh- through 12th-grade students beginning in August until new facilities can be built.
Phase 1 may cost between $15 million and $17 million, Crawford has said.
The second phase of work includes building a new middle and high school. The new facilities could cost around $80 million and would open in 2015 at the earliest.
The school board last week hired Huckabee Associates, which built West High School in the 1990s, to oversee the work.
Crawford also told the board that a team of evaluators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency reviewed the damaged schools Tuesday.
He said the district and the city need to have a combined $34 million in damage above what insurance will cover to receive federal aid. But he said the FEMA team thinks the two entities would meet that threshold.
Teachers and staff were allowed to enter or visit their damaged campuses this past week for the first time. Mike Fleming, principal of West Intermediate, took his staff to the campus last week to see if they could recover items, but only a few were able to retrieve things by reaching through windows.
“I tried to prepare them ahead of time, but some of them thought, ‘Well, not my classroom,’ ” Fleming said. “It was a lot of crying, lot of hugging. But it was a time for healing and it gave them some closure.”