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Workers throw away pieces of the hardwood floor from main gymnasium as crews remediate flood damage at Columbus East High School in Columbus, Ind., Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Workers had pulled up a majority of the court as part of the process to remediate flood damage. Minor flooding damaged the courts in the main and auxiliary gyms as well as other parts of the athletic complex and other part of the school that are below ground level. Mike Wolanin | The Republic
There still isn’t a definitive price tag on estimated damages to Columbus East High School from last month’s flash flooding.
However, the grand total will likely include a little under $400,000 to completely replace the auxiliary and main gym floors, school officials said.
On June 19, a flash food hit Columbus, causing water and sewage to back up in the drains in the high school, closing the building temporarily, with much of the damage in the school’s athletic area and gyms.
At the time, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Director of Operations Brett Boezeman said somewhere between 160,000-200,000 square feet of the high school may have been affected by flooding, including all athletic areas of the main building and all of the lower level.
Roberts Cleaning Services LLC was brought in to work on the site. Both cleaning and sanitization were needed, especially as there was sewage backup.
Now, one month later, Boezeman said that the school is generally open, though work is still being done to shore up the damage. BELFOR Indianapolis is “pretty much handling everything,” he said, including cleaning and restoration. About 60 employees are at East on any given day, he said.
While it’s hard to estimate when the company will be finished, Boezeman said that early-to-mid August is a “fair guess.” There’ll probably still be a handful of workers in the school when classes resume.
“Things are looking really good,” he said. “… Everything is clean, for the most part. There’s a few small spaces here and there that they’re still working towards.”
For instance, some carpet in the C4 TV media area will be removed.
Also, more notably, both the auxiliary and main gym floors have been removed, and workers were finishing removal of the main gym’s subfloor as of last week.
While school officials had previously speculated that the main gym floor might be salvageable, Boezeman said that both floors will be completely replaced.
“We did some cuts on different parts of the (main gym) floor and found that there was water — not much water, but there was still water underneath all of it, basically,” he said. A vapor barrier prevented them from being able to dry it completely.
Work at the school site has also included going through storm and sewer drain valves and looking at check valves to assess current issues and figure out how to safeguard against future problems.
Boezeman said in June that $1 million would be a “rough guess” for the estimated total cost of damages to the school, though he added that it was “too soon to say with much accuracy.”
In a recent interview, he said that he doesn’t have an estimate for the total cost from the flooding but hopes to have a better idea in the next few weeks.
“A gym floor is about $200,000,” he said. “We’re replacing wrestling mats. A lot of these things we are in the process of getting estimates back from vendors. So, for example, we had a company come through last week and do an assessment of all the furniture that will need to be replaced. And he’s still working on that estimate.”
BCSC Assistant Superintendent of Financial Services Chad Phillips likewise said, “We don’t yet know the total cost of the items listed to address the flood event at East.”
The school corporation’s mandated National Flood Insurance Program policy has a deductible of $1,250 and covers up to $500,000 in property and $500,000 in contents, Phillips said. The school corporation’s regular property and liability policy covers up to an additional $2.5 million.
East Athletics Director Pete Huse said that the response has included removing contaminated or destroyed items and cleaning the objects that can be salvaged. For instance, uniforms are being sent in for professional cleaning to ensure they’re safe to wear.
Since most fall athletics take place outdoors and can use those exterior facilities, volleyball is the main sport affected by gym closures, Huse said.
Some basketball practices were also moved or canceled because of the flooding, and Toyota Material Handling allowed East’s football team utilize its fitness facility for weightlifting when the school was closed.
East’s weight room is upstairs and was not damaged by the flood, so weights conditioning classes will not be affected, Huse said.
However, the gym closures will present challenges to physical education classes. These classes will take place outside, he said, but adverse weather could mean that they move to an indoor balcony or a free classroom.
“We don’t want to put them in danger by having them outside when it’s really, really hot, and certainly don’t want them outside when there’s storms,” he said. “And without any gyms, it’s a tough situation for the P.E. classes.”
Boezeman said that most of the school’s classes will be unaffected for first day of school on Aug. 6.
“Academically, 95% of the building won’t even notice anything had happened,” he said. “The inconvenience will be to physical education classes. … And then athletics, obviously.”
“We are looking forward to having students and staff back in the building for the start of school,” said Principal Mark Newell. “The workers have been doing an excellent job of cleaning. We have a flexible staff and student body that will adapt to the areas of the building that are still in need of additional work. It will be nice having the building filled with students and staff and the sense of community and energy that it brings.”
“We are looking forward to having students and staff back in the building for the start of school. The workers have been doing an excellent job of cleaning. We have a flexible staff and student body that will adapt to the areas of the building that are still in need of additional work. It will be nice having the building filled with students and staff and the sense of community and energy that it brings.”
— Principal Mark Newell, Columbus East High School.