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Devastated Hull-Daisetta school rebounds from Harvey

August 27, 2018

Connections. Sometimes in life, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

The only school devastated and forced out by Hurricane Harvey in Liberty County suffered millions of dollars of damage and was forced out of the school now going on a full year, but they’ve survived.

Through it all, the district has managed to help get the school back on track and now with a $5,000 donation to Hull-Daisetta Elementary from EntergyTexas, teachers can fill in the gaps with items insurance didn’t cover or the district couldn’t afford.

A small prize patrol visited Hull-Daisetta Elementary to present Principal Kevin Frauenberger the check.

“This is the biggest blessing,” he said. “We’re finished with the insurance money and we’re finished with the necessities, but there were little things they lost that we didn’t have the money to spend,” he said. “This will be perfect,” the smiling principal said.

Frauenberger said he didn’t like for his teachers to have to spend money out of their pockets, especially when they were also dealing with hurricane-related expenses at home.

“They don’t make enough as it is,” he said.

“Harvey showed the heroes of our communities,” said Sallie Rainer, president and CEO of Entergy Texas, Inc. “The schools, cities and community organizations were there to help people get back on their feet following the storm. Our contributions today are a sign of our ongoing partnership to make our communities stronger.”

On the first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, Entergy Texas is giving $300,000 to local educators, local governments and non-profit organizations to replace items that Harvey destroyed.

Frauenberger lives in Daisetta where the high school is located, and the water came up to his threshold.

“I just thought it was a bad rain and really didn’t think much of it. My grandparents have lived in Raywood all of their lives and their house flooded all the time.”

All the while, the curious principal kept a wary eye on rising water levels at the elementary to make sure everything was okay.

“The next thing I know, I can’t see the parking lot. Then it’s at the backdoor. Then it kept rising and I knew it was inside, I knew it was going to be bad,” he said.

His fears were confirmed when a friend in a high-water vehicle took him to the campus and he and his wife waded into the school. They were shocked at the devastation.

“It was horrible,” he said.

Beyond cleanup, he was nervously trying to figure out how they were going to educate students without a building.

Then it dawned on him. His father-in-law might be able to help.

He’s not exactly sure how the conversation went or who called who first, but his father-in-law Bob Parker was the superintendent at Hardin ISD. They had just moved out of their old elementary into their new one when Harvey hit and like good neighbors, Hardin ISD opened their doors to the Hull-Daisetta Elementary family and allowed them to use their buildings.

“So many schools in Houston had to either share schools, go half a day and someone else a half a day,” he said.

He was concerned that the disruption would be monumental on the student’s scores.

“For our scores to be what they were after so much devastation, to teach class, and get the kids here that weren’t stranded or displaced, we missed two weeks of school, I am so happy,” he said.

They make it work by establishing two places for parents to pick up and drop off their students to take buses to the campus. Some drive their students.

Teachers missed 10 days and students missed 15 days of instruction and yet still found a way to excel on the STAAR scores.

He credits his staff.

“It was devastating coming back to school,” said Teresa Bellard, fifth grade teacher.

Her first day back was spent picking through the items in her classroom trying to find things to salvage. It was difficult because so much was damp and beginning to mold.

“In the middle of all of that, I ended up breaking my ankle when I tripped over a bag,” she said.

Following surgery, she was able to join her colleagues at their new location in the former Hardin Elementary Campus on SH 146.

She had to work out of a wheelchair.

“The kids bounced right back,” she said. “I was happy how the school tried to help us by getting the things we needed,” the teacher said. She knew they wouldn’t be able to replace everything they lost, but she received the necessities.

“If I need something and I can get it, I buy it,” she said.

She’s excited to return to the former school which has been renovated.

“I’m thankful to God that we didn’t lose anyone by death,” she said.

She said they did lose students who had to move away to find a place to live until their homes had been renovated.

“Gradually, they’re beginning to come back,” she said with a smile.

Her own house is up on blocks, so she was fortunate that the only damage she received was to the underside of her home. The water rose up to the steps but didn’t come into the house.

For days, they felt abandoned as the water surrounded them looking like they were in the middle of a lake.

They lived off a packed pantry waiting three days for the water to go down enough to get out and search for more supplies but finding them would prove difficult.

“Everyone had bought nearly everything off the shelves,” she said.

She spent four weeks in the wheelchair and graduated up to a cane.

Once back to school, she felt blessed by the outpouring of help for her, her students and the school.

“People are so good,” she said. “We received gift cards to help us buy supplies.”

If the stress of the storm wasn’t enough, Bellard was also concerned about the students and how they would perform on the STAAR test.

“My kids love me, and I love my kids,” she said, and she turned that affection into teaching moments that brought her students high scores on the test. In fact, her principal said she was one student away from being 100 percent.

The elementary school was the highest performing in Region V.

The money she will receive from the EntergyTexas gift will help her purchase items for her classroom, particularly her bulletin boards.

For 27 years, first-grade teacher Kim Godwin her first look at her classroom was devastating.

“I cried for three months straight,” she said. “It was my stuff. My stuff,” she said as she became emotional.

“That was my second home,” the teacher said.

She was not only devastated over the loss of her second home, but her own home received approximately six inches of water.

“We had just gutted the house about six months earlier and put in new flooring, new furniture, new everything,” she said.

Then the rain came.

“We were back to square one. All of our new things were ruined,” she said.

It didn’t take the wind out of her sails.

They evacuated to a hotel in Channelview and was stranded there for days.

When they saw their home, they knew they couldn’t stay in a hotel room for as long as it was going to take.

“We went out and bought an RV and lived in that for 314 days,” she said.

It was a blessing and now they use the RV for recreational purposes and vacations.

“It was overwhelming…and still is,” as she teared up.

Frauenberger said the kids were much more resilient than they were, but after a year, they’re doing great.

“It’s a difficult situation but we have stayed together, fought together and made it through it together and we’re a family,” he said.

They should be able to move back to their newly renovated school by Christmas. It will be a sweet gift to the students, staff, and community.

dtaylor@hcnonline.com

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