Rough Start to the School Year is Made Easier with Help of Federal Partnership

Students of Mauriceville Elementary School and Mauriceville Middle School in Orange, Texas, once again have a classroom to call their own. After a topsy-turvy start to the 2017-2018 school year, the students moved into their new building on Feb. 20, thanks to a partnership among the State and local governments, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and FEMA.

Classes were set to begin Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, but Hurricane Harvey swept through town before school could begin. No one in the school district could have imagined the destruction the storm would leave behind.

The elementary and middle schools in Mauriceville were two of the four schools in the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Consolidated Independent School District (LC-M CISD) that flooded. The heavy damage to the school buildings left more than 850 students without a place to learn.

On Sept. 20, 2017, students throughout the district returned to class part-time, with Mauriceville Middle School students splitting the school day with upperclassmen at the local high school, and Mauriceville Elementary school students traveling ten miles to North Orange Baptist Church, where the district rented space for makeshift classrooms to be shared with Little Cypress Elementary School. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.

“The whole experience was probably as smooth as it could be for us,” said LC-M CISD Assistant Superintendent Greg Perry, “The Army Corps of Engineers did a great job; everyone is excited to have clean classrooms.”

USACE located modular buildings, constructed foundations, installed classrooms, connected utilities and built canopies and walkways. Even with delays caused by wet winter weather, the project was completed in three months.

“We recognize that getting schools back to some normalcy after a disaster is a big step, so it was our privilege to assist with the Hurricane Harvey recovery,” said Steve T. Sherrill, a Port Arthur, Texas, USACE Resident Engineer.

The cost to prepare and install the buildings is estimated to be nearly $1.75 million. Portable classrooms are leased at a monthly cost of approximately $57,000.

“The Corps of Engineers is an invaluable resource for making a project like this happen,” said FEMA’s Kevin Hannes, federal coordinating officer for Hurricane Harvey. “It’s nice to have a partner like that, who can come in and build a safe, functional schoolhouse in such a short amount of time. This is an important milestone for this community and I’m happy we could be a part of it.”