September 4, 2021
I hope this letter finds you and your family recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Ida. As I noted in our district communication, please reach out to Mr. Plias if your family has been displaced, so that we can identify what supports we can offer your students.
Since the end of the storm, our maintenance and custodial staff has been working with our remediation contractor to clean up the immediate impacts of the storm, assess the damage to the building and determine next steps. While there is still much work to be done, and we still do not have all of the answers we will need, it is clear that we will not be in a position to welcome students into the Walton building next week, and perhaps for some time in the future.
Recognizing that there is still much we don’t know, I want to give you as much information as I can so that you can prepare yourselves and your students for the changes that will come as we cope together as a community with this new challenge. Our current understanding about the impact on the building remains preliminary, and is subject to change significantly over the next few days. We also recognize that we are dealing with heightened anxiety about starting schools in the context of the pandemic, and we want to minimize that anxiety to the best of our ability.
First, some good news. It appears that the vast bulk of the instructional materials at Walton were not impacted by the storm. As a result, we will be able to move those materials to other locations and they will be able to be used by our teachers and students once we are able to welcome them into new locations.
Second, in terms of damage to the building, we are working to determine both the physical impacts (i.e., cracked, loose or buckled flooring) and environmental issues (addressing the impacts of water damage to other surfaces). Once these issues are fully assessed, we will have a better idea of how long it will be until our students and staff can return to the building.
At this time, all of the carpets on the first floor of the building, including classrooms and the library are being removed. We are still assessing our options for replacement and do not have a clear schedule yet. We recognize that supply chain issues related to the pandemic may impact our timeline, and we will work to make sure that the work is expedited to the best of our ability.
In addition, the floor of the gymnasium has been severely impacted and will require replacement. Because it is also our cafeteria space, replacement of the floor will have a significant impact on our scheduling.
Based on the initial assessment, it appears that we could be out of the building for several weeks and perhaps several months. In our best case scenario, some classrooms would be displaced for a short period of time, while others could take a month or more to complete.
Recognizing this possibility, we are committed to finding locations to deliver in person instruction for our Walton students. To that end, in addition to identifying classrooms in our other buildings to utilize for our Walton students, we are actively in discussions with several parties to identify spaces within the Township where we can relocate classrooms. The speed at which we are able to make this transition will depend on how quickly we are able to navigate the legal and state requirements. I can assure you that we have a team of folks working throughout the weekend to support this process, and we are hopeful that we will provide specific information by the end of next week.
We are grateful to the Township and the members of our community who are so generously offering to support us at this time. It is our hope that we will be able to welcome Walton students to their new classrooms beginning on Monday, September 13th, but there remains a significant amount of work to make that happen. It is also possible that the first day(s) of school will need to be virtual while we move classroom supplies and navigate the legal requirements, but please be assured that we are working to minimize that in whatever way possible. You will continue to receive updates from Mr. Plias with specific details about our next steps.
I know how much all of the members of our staff, our students, and our parents were looking forward to the start of a “normal” school year. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for us. This is not the start of the year that any of us wanted, but I also know that the Walton school community is a truly special place, and I know that we will get through this together.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to welcome our students back.
Superintendent of Schools
Cultivating compassionate and extraordinary learners!