APSB addresses RHS tornado damage at meeting

By: Jeannine LeJeune
CROWLEY – It will be a busy Mardi Gras for Rayne High, that much is certain following comments from the Acadia Parish School Board’s insurance team and Rayne High Principal Bobby Hamlin.

The board’s first big item on the agenda was to address the damage done to Rayne High during Saturday morning’s tornado that caused extensive damage throughout the city and claimed one life.

Insurance agent James Wallace and Eric Lewis of Crawford & Co., the insurance company’s adjustment firm, were both on hand to explain where they are now and where they will be moving forward.

Wallace warned that tornado claims can be tricky but that his team will do everything they can to make it as simple as possible for the board going forward.

Rayne High received the most damage in the Rayne school district. The minor damage to Armstrong Middle and Martin Petitjean Elementary will also be accessed this week, but Rayne High has been made the priority. The board had a $50,000 deductible and Wallace says they have already almost met that with the tree service bill alone. The board’s coverage also takes care of some other things up to a certain amount.

Wallace recommended that the school board also declare a state of emergency toward the school to help expedite the process. After hearing comments from both men, the board unanimously voted to add the action item and then unanimously voted to declare a state of emergency on Rayne High. This process, along with the governor declaring Rayne in a state of emergency, helps the board move quicker in getting the repairs done. For example, they will not need to advertise for bids, instead they can go and get quotes for each thing that needs to be done to the school.

Wallace explained that most of the damage to the school was roof and water related. However, there are some structural worries, such as the school’s south gymnasium. The structural concerns will be addressed Tuesday when the insurance agency’s structural engineers that specialize in storm damaged structures will walk through the school and make their assessment. It is after that walkthrough that the insurance company will be able to get the school board a better idea of what the claim amount will be.

“Eric and I have talked and we will have a better idea tomorrow (Tuesday) as to where we think the claim will be,” said Wallace, “but it will easily be a couple hundred thousand dollars.”

Wallace says they will ask for a $150,000 advance to start the repair process. The number could go up as well. Wallace believes it is highly unlikely the number will drop.

Negotiating the quote amounts will fall on Lewis’ shoulders and Wallace urged the board to begin searching now to help Lewis.

Following the unanimous vote to declare Rayne High in a state of emergency, Hamlin addressed the board, gracious of the help his community has offered since Saturday.

“I can’t say enough about the community,” he said.

Hamlin told the board that the water damage amount alone could be very pricey alone, pointing toward the likely loss of many textbooks.

Currently, temporary roofing has been added to gyms and buildings or will be added soon. The tell-tale sign for these temporary fixes will soon be discovered as rain is in the forecast for Tuesday night and Wednesday. For now, the plan is for all teachers, faculty and staff members to report Wednesday and access their classroom’s damage and clean it up as best they can. If all goes well students will return to school Thursday.

“The back side of town is really bad,” said Hamlin. “The kids from that area need eight hours of normalcy.”

Later in the meeting, Superintendent John E. Bourque echoed Hamlin’s sentiments.

“It was good to see a community come together as it did in Rayne,” he said, “and we are fortunate in Acadia Parish to have people like that.”

There will be more on the board meeting tomorrow.

Acadia Parish Today

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