(Photo by Christina Truong)
WEST (August 26, 2013)—Hundreds of students returned to class Monday in West, starting the new school year in surroundings that are both familiar and unfamiliar, more than four months after the deadly explosion that damaged or destroyed three of the district’s four schools.
About 700 West students in grades 7 through 12 finished the 2012-2013 school year in the temporary quarters provided by the Connally ISD after the April 17 explosion, while pre-K through 6th grade students resumed classes after the blast at West Elementary School, which wasn't damaged.
Over the summer workers installed 25 temporary buildings, each containing 10 classrooms, for the upcoming school year at an estimated cost of about $6 million.
Students in pre-K through grade 5 are attending classes at West Elementary School and students in grades 6 through 12 are attending classes in the temporary buildings, which were installed on the Middle School campus.
Each of the temporary buildings is air conditioned and has restrooms.
Rebuilding schools may take several years.
The district and its insurance company are still trying to come to terms on a settlement.
The district’s insurance company wants to pay $20 million to settle the claim, which is one third of the $60 million for which the West ISD is covered.
The district ultimately may be faced with spending $100 million or more to rebuild schools and provide the temporary classrooms until construction is completed, and to add to the problem, the McLennan County Appraisal District estimates a loss of $40 million in taxable property value because of damage and destruction.
The powerful explosion killed 15, injured about 200, and damaged or destroyed scores of homes and buildings.