Hundreds of students stuck in Cleveland school by flood waters
More than 800 students and 100-plus teachers and administrators were hunkered down inside Southside Elementary in Cleveland at the height of heavy rains that flooded the area on Tuesday.
The school was expected to hold nearly 200 students overnight, as parents looked for ways to navigate flooded roads, said Cleveland ISD Superintendent Chris Trotter.
CISD officials said the rain did not breach the school itself, but several inches of rain inundated the region, forcing the school’s closure. The district also cancelled classes on Wednesday.
Trotter was inside the school, still in his dress shirt, pants and tie while entertaining students and trying to keep them calm.
“The flooding was limited to the southside area and Plum Grove, not in the city of Cleveland proper,” he said.
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The school, which normally holds approximately 1,000 elementary-aged students, became the epicenter for students across the district who couldn’t get home.
“As the rain kept coming (this afternoon), we delayed elementary buses from hitting their routes, but most of the secondary students were able to get out,” he said.
Trotter, in only his fifth day at the helm of the district, said they were always going to err on the side of caution.
“Safety is always going to be first on my mind,” he stressed.
While the flooding increased, students continued to hunker down until parents could arrive to pick them up and navigate their way back home.
“We still have about 200 students we will take care of tonight. We’re working with local agencies, and we’ll have a sleepover with about 200 kids. Hopefully that number will decrease as parents are able to get here to pick their children up,” he said.
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The new superintendent praised the teachers and staff for their teamwork.
“I’m very proud of the staff, and the students have been cooperative,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for more as a new superintendent.”
Around 3:30 p.m., the floods began. All but two buses of secondary students were able to navigate the roads. Those two buses were able to find alternate routes to get all but about two dozen pupils home. They were taken to Southside Elementary to ride out the storm until parents arrived.
Northside Elementary parents were able to get their students quickly since there was little flooding there, and Eastside Elementary students were mostly gone by 5:30 p.m.
“Local businesses pitched in with pizza from Pizza Hut and Little Caesars,” Trotter said. “The food service folks came up and made chicken nuggets and French fries for the little guys.”
Outside of a few leaks in the roof, Trotter said the district’s facilities haven’t had much damage. To keep the students calm, the elementary kids were allowed to stay in their home room with their teacher.
“The kids were awesome. They were listening to their music, texting their friends,” he said about the secondary students. They played cards, dominoes and video games on their phones.
“The elementary kids thought it was a night party at school,” he laughed.
Trotter said they have canceled all classes for Wednesday for student safety.
“With the road closures around the county, we wanted to make sure that our students and staff would be safe to return,” he said.