Hilliard Elementary among schools that suffered ‘extensive’ damage in Hurricane Harvey

Fifty-three campuses have “major” damage, 22 have “extensive” damage; assessment of campuses continues

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The floors of Hilliard Elementary School, where Hurricane Harvey floodwaters at one point reached 4 feet high, were still slick and littered with wet debris on Saturday, with water pooling in the hallways, cafetorium and classrooms. Flooring schoolwide will need to be torn out, walls removed 4 feet from the floor, and surfaces dried with humidifiers and covered in anti-microbial disinfectant.

The extent of devastation at the northeast Houston campus places it in the “top 10” of schools damaged by the storm. 

HISD Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby led a tour of the damaged Hilliard campus on Saturday, accompanied by Superintendent Richard Carranza and several trustees — Board President Wanda Adams, District II Trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones, District IV Trustee Jolanda Jones, District VI Trustee Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, District VII Trustee Anne Sung, and District VIII Trustee Diana Dávila.

Hilliard is among 245 campuses that HISD Facilities Services had reached to assess by Saturday morning, said Busby. Of those, 115 schools can be deep-cleaned and ready for the scheduled first day of school on Sept. 11, he said. Fifty-three have what Busby calls “major” damage, while 22, including Hilliard, have “extensive” damage. The district is still working to assess 32 schools, as well as in-district charter campuses, but accessibility has been hampered by flooding. 

“About 15 of those we could not get into but are into this morning,” said Busby. “Ones that stand out are Mitchell Elementary and Ed White Elementary. Those were surrounded and still are taking in water to an extent because of the neighborhood drainage.”

Carranza said it will be months before Hilliard can be reopened, and the school district is following strict restoration guidelines, including those set out by FEMA, to ensure Hilliard and other campuses are safe. The district is assessing water damage and structural issues, as well as air quality, mold issues, and technology infrastructure. 

He estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 students from HISD schools will need to be temporarily moved to other campuses during the restoration process, and the possibility remains that the first day of school will be postponed beyond Sept. 11.

“There has always been the caveat that we will not put students or staff in harm’s way,” Carranza said. “There is that slight chance that there may be a delay even after Sept. 11, but we are working with all due haste to make sure that we are going to meet that deadline of Sept. 11.”

He added that officials are still determining where those students will be relocated, and that plans are being made to ensure they have transportation when they return to school. The district also has a team mobilizing to visit area shelters.

“Our teachers are phenomenal,” Carranza said. “I’m getting messages from teachers that are saying, ‘We are ready to go volunteer in the shelters and do something.’ So we are rounding up all of those people, and we are going to have a presence in the shelters.”

Hilliard is represented by Trustee Skillern-Jones, who called the devastation in the communities affected by Harvey “heartbreaking.”

“A lot of people were expecting our babies to come back and were ready for school to start, and our kids were looking forward to coming back,” she said. “It’s really heartbreaking. The most devastating part is driving through the communities to get here and seeing our children pulling their things out of flooded houses.”

Board President Wanda Adams said the district is taking steps to ensure that students and staff have all their needs met in the aftermath of Harvey.

“We are looking at the whole child and making sure they have their needs. We’ve been partnering with some medical facilities to be sure that if they need medical care, we are addressing that issue,” she said, adding that teachers will also have access to medical care, and that no teacher will go unpaid during the time lost to the storm.

“We are making all of these issues with our schools a priority and trying to get them back to the way they were before the storm hit,” Adams said. “This has been a heartfelt tragedy for Houston. We have many students that have lost everything, and so for them to lose their school— I’m sure it has to be heart-wrenching.”

Community members who want to help families of HISD recover from Harvey can donate new, unused clothing, uniforms, pillows, blankets, shoes, undergarments, socks, deodorant, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items, as well as new professional dress for impacted staff.

Starting Sept. 5, donations can be made at one of the following locations and times:

Delmar Fieldhouse, 2020 Mangum Road, Houston, TX 77092. People wanting to drop off donations should enter the complex on Mangum. Signs will be posted.

  • Donations will be accepted Sept. 5-8 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Donations will be accepted starting Sept. 11 during normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Butler Stadium, 13755 Main St., Houston, TX 77035

  • Donations will be accepted Sept. 5-8 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Barnett Stadium, 6800 Fairway Dr., Houston, TX 77087

  • Donations will be accepted Sept. 5-8 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The HISD Foundation is also accepting donations to help families recover, and 100% of funds raised will go directly to helping HISD students and families. Click here to make a donation, and please specify “Harvey” as the purpose for your donation.

HISD is also providing meals to families and individuals affected by the floods. Starting on Saturday, Sept. 2, HISD’s Nutrition Services will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner free of charge at nine sites in the Houston area.