Nebraska Schools Support Communities Through Flood Relief

by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News

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March 22, 2019, 6 p.m.

More than a week after flooding began in eastern Nebraska, local schools are still feeling the impact. Some districts are back to class, while others are closed.


Cedar Bluffs public schools are back in session as of Thursday. They closed down starting Thursday of last week. Luckily, last Friday was already a planned day off.

Tina Hanzel is the middle and high school principal at Cedar Bluffs.

Tina Hanzel (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

“You kind of have to get the kids back in the swing of things, so yesterday some of the kids were pretty slow moving. Other ones were kind of happy to be here because maybe they’ve had to deal with the floods and they’ve been stuck in Fremont,” Hanzel said.

Four days lost to flooding add on to four or five days lost to snow earlier in the year. Cedar Bluffs will not have to make up school days, as they have longer school days and can get to the required number of classroom hours.

However, there is an impact in the classroom. Kate Chrisman teaches high school English at Cedar Bluffs. She explained where her class got interrupted last week.

“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday they were reading a story, doing, completing worksheets and preparing for a test that was supposed to be on Thursday. Well here we are now seven days later nearly, so yesterday I did not ask them to come back and take a test immediately because they had not reviewed the material for over a week,” Chrisman said.

There will also be ripple effects for lesson plans past this week. Chrisman’s speech and drama class was supposed to spend this week writing speeches.

“For everything to kind of line up before school gets out, we’ve had to kind of condense some things. We’re not doing as much public speaking now so we can start on the Shakespeare and in most of my classes we’re condensing a few lessons in order to stay on track with all of our planning,” Chrisman said.

Chrisman also teaches an ACT prep group after school. All Cedar Bluffs juniors will take the test on April 2. This week they were supposed to work on the writing section of the test.

“So next week we had some review sessions for ACT prep set up, and instead of reviewing, they’ll be focusing on the writing portion and then we’ll still just have about one day before the test to do any final reviews. So the timing is condensed, but hopefully we can still kind of squeeze all the important parts in to help prepare the kids,” Chrisman said.

Outside the classroom, Cedar Bluffs staff are making sure to check on their students after the flooding. Many students live in Fremont, where flooding was more drastic.

Hanzel says the school set up a form to ask families what help or supplies they might need, as well as making calls to individual families.

Douglas County West school staff and teachers haven't been afraid to get a little mud on their boots. (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

“I mean we did have a few families that pretty much lost everything they own, so that was heartbreaking and now what we’re doing, today actually, we just set up a fundraiser for all of these families, and we want to try and help our families first, the ones that have really lost everything, or even the ones that may still have a home, but have lost everything inside of it,” Hanzel said.

Other schools are also trying to serve the community.

Dan Endorf is superintendent of North Bend Public Schools. His district has been shut down since last Friday, and hopes to reopen sometime next week.

“Now if you come to North Bend Central High School, the high school looks like the town just moved into that building,” Endorf said.

Endorf says many of the towns services are now based out of the high school building.

“And on one end of it is our new gymnasium which the fire department is utilizing. In the middle portions of the building we have our old gym, which now looks like a convenience, grocery store of sorts. The main office is where the volunteers arrive for detail and for instruction,” Endorf said.

The list doesn’t stop there.

“The back portion of the building, in that area is where we accept our deliveries. We have a quasi-hospital in the building. We have a daycare in the building, of sorts. And finally, the postal service,” Endorf said.

In Valley, Nebraska, the school building itself isn’t doing so many jobs, but the school community is.

Jeremy Travis is the middle school principal at Douglas County West public schools. He says when the flooding started, school staff talked about wanting to help students and families.

Jeremy Travis (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

“And we just said hey, we’re gonna meet here at nine o’clock. If you want to show up and help volunteer, we’re gonna come up with a game plan, and then we’re gonna go try to help as many families as we can throughout the day,” Travis said.

They’ve had forty to fifty volunteers every day so far, including staff, teachers, families, and students. It hasn’t been glamorous work.

“We’ve seen mud three or four inches thick through homes, corn stalks through homes. We’ve seen them reach the main level, which them touches everything in the home as far as furniture and valuable items, things of that nature. It’s, to be quite honest there’s a lot of… there’s a lot of sadness," Travis said.

Douglas County West had planned days off last Thursday and Friday, but have had to cancel school all this week. They’ll be back in class on Monday.