West's heavily damaged intermediate school. (Photo by John Carroll)
WEST (April 30, 2013)--The school district is the largest employer in West, but in the blink of an eye it lost three of their four academic campuses.
Yet, two weeks after the West explosion, West ISD is taking its first steps towards reconstruction.
Monday night, the school district hired Huckabee Associates Inc. as its architecture firm.
After surveying the damage done by the West explosion, reps from Huckabee recommended to school board members that West Intermediate and West High School be demolished and rebuilt.
As for West Middle School, Huckabee says the old high school building and the gym can be salvaged, but that the rest should be bulldozed.
Superintendent Marty Crawford says he has been bracing for the news.
"Seeing the condition of the high school and the middle school campuses, we knew were going to have a steep challenge to be able to go back to school anytime soon," Crawford said.
"The largest emotion was 'how are we going to care for these kids for the next 30 days and then long term knowing the shapes of the buildings?'"
Crawford says board members will likely adopt Huckabee's recommendations.
If so, the next step would be what Crawford calls Phase 1. It's a plan that would get displaced students back in West by this August.
According to Crawford, it would cost West ISD approximately 16 million dollars to get multiple portable buildings ready for students, to create a cafeteria structure, and to refurbish athletic facilities.
Phase 2, which involves rebuilding damaged parts of campuses, would then follow.
But Crawford says that won't come cheap.
"The additional dollars we think it would take to rebuild our campuses is going to take anywhere from 84 to 95 million dollars," Crawford said.
West ISD's total recovery effort could easily top 110 million dollars.
So where does this funding come from? In moments like these, any other school district might have a bond election.
But West ISD can't, the City of West's tax base has been depleted by approximately $24 million because of the explosion.
The funding West ISD will use to rebuild will come from its insurance provider and whatever funds they can get from the state legislature.
"We need help, and it's going to take a lot more people than the citizens of West," Crawford said.
"It's going to take the citizens of Texas, legislators, and leaders of Texas to assist West and to prop us up so the community can survive."
West ISD's insurance provider could cover up to $60 million worth of damages left by the West explosion.
The district is hoping all of that money comes through, and if it doesn't they'll look to the state legislature for more resources.