Wood Schools weathers storm

PARKERSBURG – Representatives from the Wood County Schools are still assessing damage from Tuesday’s violent storm, but said they believe most of the repairs can be done in-house.

Even so, officials warned the school system could face serious financial issues if more such storms strike the area this summer.

The majority of the damage at the district’s 29 facilities consists of downed tree limbs, broken windows and damaged roofs, said Mike Fling, assistant superintendent of school services.

“What we are experiencing the most is minor roof damage, but we already had roof issues,” Fling said.

The school system already had planned roof repairs and limited roof replacements at schools this summer, but officials say they will make only necessary temporary repairs to roofs that were damaged by the storm.

“You don’t want to spend a lot of money making repairs if you are already planning more significant repairs for those roofs,” he said.

The biggest concern Tuesday and Wednesday, Fling said, was the district’s main freezer at the food service warehouse on Edgelawn Street in south Parkersburg. The facility stores food for the summer school programs and lost power after Tuesday’s storm.

The district is feeding about 800 students a day and usually keeps about a week’s worth of food on hand, he said.

“We don’t have a generator big enough to power that freezer,” Fling said. “That was our biggest scare.”

Power was restored to the building early Wednesday morning and the internal temperature of the freezer never reached dangerous levels, but Fling said officials had been considering an emergency plan to ship the food to schools with power.

“It wasn’t the same as it would have been during the regular school year, but it was still scary,” he said.

Fling said officials were able to have summer school classes as normal on Wednesday.

Superintendent John Flint said if damage from the storm had been more severe it could have caused serious financial issues for Wood County Schools.

“We were lucky. We dodged the bullet,” Flint said. “We had minor damage we can take care of in-house, but should it be a more catastrophic event we would have to move monies around. We would be in a bad situation because there really is no contingency fund.”

In April the Wood County Board of Education made significant cuts to the district’s 2014-15 budget when officials realized a planned $500,000 in contingency fund money had to be used to shore up other areas of the budget. The remaining contingency fund was $175,000, only a fraction of the contingency amount recommended by the state.

“That has to be a priority, to build up that contingency fund,” Flint said, “Right now we don’t have any carryover.

“We were one of the lucky ones (Tuesday), but we’re not going to be lucky all the time.”