By Michael Buhler
With the start of school rescheduled for Sept. 3, Argonia USD 359 is racing the clock to get its storm-damaged buildings ready for opening day – but the weather has been doing its part to get in the way of that.
“I’m not opposed to rain,” USD 359 superintendent Julie Dolley said at Argonia Elementary School. “I’m glad our lakes are filling up, that farmers have what they need, but I would feel better to have a roof back on this building.”
Like much of south central Kansas, Argonia has been inundated with rain in the three weeks since severe thunderstorms came through the town and did major roof damage to the elementary school and high school gymnasium.
“Every time it rains, it’s almost like we’re starting over,” Dolley said. “After the first couple of nights of the really bad rain, we had all these units come in and we had everything drying out – but then every time it rains, we get more water, so it’s almost like we’re starting over. We can’t start any repair work until they get the roof waterproofed so that we won’t have any more leaks. They’re not going to go in and start repairing floors and repainting walls till that’s done.”
The good news is that the high school – aside from the gym – is in relatively good shape.
“The part of the high school roof that was blown off was over the high school gym,” Dolley said. “The classrooms didn’t have near the water damage that we had in the elementary school.”
However, the gym is going to need a new floor, which will take a while to install.
“I haven’t heard how long yet,” Dolley said. “We’re still waiting on bids and things like that.”
In the meantime, the Argonia High School volleyball team will practice at the Harper Elementary School. Right now, it looks like home volleyball games will be played at various “homes away from home” most, if not all, of the season.
“We’re going to try to play them at another close location,” Dolley said. “We do have one home game scheduled, Parents’ Night, Oct. 8. If our gym floor is not finished by then, then we may play it at Harper Elementary. They have offered that option to us.”
As for the elementary school, getting things fixed and ready for school to start should not take long – if the rain stops.
“I just don’t think anybody imagined that after that first couple of nights of storms that the rain would last this long,” Dolley said. “If it had been hot and dry like a normal August, our rooms would probably already be done.”
Dolley said that it would take approximately a week to get everything ready once the rain stops falling.
“They are telling me that they’ll bring in crews,” Dolley said. “We’ll have lots of people in here doing the floors, the painting, the re-carpeting and those kinds of things. We’re still optimistic that we’ll be ready Sept. 3.”
Final estimates of damage from the storm are not in, but could end up close to a million dollars when everything is said and done.
“We are continuing to find things that were damaged that we were not aware of,” Dolley said. “I do expect that number to increase.”
The nearly non-stop rain has delayed roof repairs at Argonia Elementary, which in turn has delayed the clean-up inside the building.