Officials gather for demolition of Denham Springs Elementary
DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) -
On the two-year anniversary of the historic flood, the Livingston Parish School System is moving on to its final phase of flood recovery with the destruction of a school that couldn’t be repaired.
The demolition and therefore, rebuilding process, of Denham Springs Elementary has begun. Educators, along with state, federal, and parish leaders gathered at the flood-damaged campus to mark the start of the demolition.
It brought about mixed emotions for teachers like Marissa Hofstetter, who teaches the fourth grade.
"Bittersweet; of course, we are deeply saddened to see our original campus start the demolition phase," said Hofstetter.
She lost her home two years ago, but for her, the devastation of losing her fourth grade classroom at the school was just as bad. She's looking forward to the day she can return to teaching in a traditional classroom again.
"Even though we're very grateful for our modular campus that we're all in together right now, it's going to be so exciting to walk back through those new doors again and all be together back at our home away from home," Hofstetter added.
"All of our campus will be a learning space, including the hallways and cafeteria area, any free space," said principal Gail DeLee. "So, we're excited to have that new, 21st century design."
Many leaders were on hand for the start of the demolition, including US Sen. Bill Cassidy, Congressman Garret Graves, and Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Two others schools in the Denham Springs area were significantly damaged by the flood: Southside Junior High School and Southside Elementary.
The school system has received permission from FEMA to also tear down and rebuild the junior high, but state leaders are still trying to get funding for Southside Elementary.
"We hope that we'll be able to get FEMA to agree with us that Southside Elementary also needs to be demolished and rebuilt," Edwards said. "I always say the most precious natural resource we have in Louisiana are our children and our people, so we have to do what we can for them."
Designs for all schools have not yet been finalized, but they will all be elevated to meet FEMA floodplain standards.
Officials expect the rebuild of Denham Springs Elementary to be finished in around three years.
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