West schools will have to be demolished

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by HEATHER KOVAR / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE and WFAA

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherK_KVUE

KVUE and WFAA

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 10 at 11:38 PM

WEST, Texas — The West Independent School District board of trustees learned Monday April 29 that three of its four schools will have to be demolished in the wake of the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion.

Roads just opening up around West reveal just how severe damage is around the fertilizer plant following the explosion.

An engineering firm has recommended demolishing the two schools next to the plant -- the intermediate and high school -- as well as part of the middle school campus. A construction company that has reviewed the three schools told trustees that only the gymnasium at the middle school can be repaired; the other structures must be rebuilt.

West ISD Superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford says the school board hasn't approved demolition yet. They're still trying to figure out how to pay for the long-term plan.

"Not only do we have some issues with our funding, but a large portion of our tax base where we could go to ask for funding is no longer here," Crawford said.

The blast claimed 15 lives, destroyed around 50 homes and damaged another 350.

Dr. Crawford says they'll make insurance claims, but have been in Austin asking state legislators for help.

"Certainly they have a sympathetic ear right now and have offered their support in any way they can," said Crawford.

KVUE spoke with the CEO of Huckabee Architecture, Engineering and Management on the phone, Chris Huckabee.

That company presented West ISD with a strategy Monday night to rebuild and get children back in class in West quickly.

Just Phase 1 will cost about $14 million; the long-term price tag is $100 million.

The plan is to remove all but two buildings from middle school location. Then they will install temporary classrooms and host grades seven through 12 there. They hope to have it ready by August.

"We think it's going to be important to have our student assemblies, and our pep rallies, and our meetings, and our football games, and our volleyball games, and our basketball games back here in West," Crawford said.

It will be a central point for the community to rally around while they work toward what Crawford calls an aggressive goal -- to have all the schools rebuilt by August 2015.

If the school board approves demolition, the schools would be rebuilt in their current locations.

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