Students return to Lydia Rippey Elementary School in Aztec
AZTEC — Many students at Lydia Rippey Elementary School seemed happy to be back in school on Thursday.
Children returned to classes for the first time since a storm on Aug. 26 flooded classrooms. The storm prompted county officials to declare a state of disaster on Tuesday during a County Commission meeting.
The flood damage caused the Aztec Municipal School District to cancel all classes on Aug. 27. All the schools but Lydia Rippey Elementary School were reopened after a day of cleanup.
"We thought it was only going to be a day, but it was five," Lydia Rippey Principal Dana Stanley said.
To make up for the five lost days, school will be released at 3:15 p.m. — 15 minutes later than normal — four days a week starting Tuesday for the rest of the school year. Classes let out at 1:45 p.m. on Mondays.
Dejah Davis, 8, spent the days out of school at the Boys & Girls Clubs.
"We did programs and had fun and played with friends," she said.
The third-grade student was excited to be back in class.
The district is still assessing the monetary impact of the storm, according to Superintendent Kirk Carpenter.
The declaration of a state of disaster provides assistance for cleaning up government-owned buildings and infrastructure, according to a press release from the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management.
Every school in the district had some damage, but three were worse than the others.
Part of the high school track was covered in mud. Retaining walls need to be rebuilt at locations throughout the district.
The music classes at Lydia Rippey Elementary School had to be relocated because the portable buildings that housed them need walls and ceiling tiles replaced. And that wasn't the only damage to the school.
"We just took a school map and went through and just identified everything," Stanley said.
Damage was found in many locations, including classrooms, closets and portable buildings. A series of large, kindergarten-level text books was soaked by the floodwaters, Stanley said. She said she has told teachers to look for water damage that might not yet be apparent.
"There's still just a lot of fallout," Carpenter said.
He estimates that it will take a couple of weeks before the district knows how much the repairs will cost.
While the declaration of a state of disaster could help the schools, it will not help residents whose houses or other property were damaged by the storm, which brought hail, high winds and floods to parts of San Juan County. The Office of Emergency Management suggests homeowners contact their insurance agent and sign up for the National Flood Insurance Program.
The Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village was closed due to storm damage. Dale Anderson, a member of the museum's board of directors, said two years ago, the museum flooded twice, but this year's flood was worse in terms of the amount of water that was involved.
"There was more water, much more water than we had two years ago," he said.
Anderson said the museum plans to reopen next week.
Volunteers from the community, including students from Vista Nueva High School and Aztec High School, helped clean up debris so the museum could reopen.
Anderson said a new exhibition will also be installed next week, and the annual Founders Day celebration, scheduled for Sept. 19, will take place as planned.
Meanwhile, teachers at Lydia Rippey Elementary School helped students — many of whom had experienced flooding at home — settle back into the normal routine on Thursday.
"It's basically the first day all over again," Stanley said.