West: School District, Insurance Company Try To Come To Terms

WEST (July 30, 2013)--West school officials and the district’s insurance company are still trying to come to terms on a settlement in the wake of the deadly April 17 fertilizer plant explosion that damaged or destroyed three of the district’s four schools.

The insurance company wants to pay $20 million to settle the claim, which is one third of the $60 million for which the district is covered.

An architectural firm the district hired to assess the damaged schools recommended that West Intermediate and West High School be demolished and rebuilt.

At West Middle School, the firm said the original high school building and gym can be salvaged, but that the rest should be bulldozed.

Insurance company engineers, however, disagree with those findings, West ISD Superintendent Marty Crawford said Tuesday.

If the district and the insurance company don’t reach an agreement, the issue could go to mediation, arbitration or to court, he said.

About 700 West students in grades 7 through 12 finished the school year in the temporary quarters provided by the Connally ISD after the explosion, while pre-K through 6th grade students resumed classes after the blast at West Elementary School, which wasn't damaged.

Workers are now in the process of installing 25 temporary portable buildings, each containing 10 classrooms, for the upcoming school year at an estimated cost of about $6 million.

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.

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