Preparedness & Recovery

East Baton Rouge Schools Starting to Get Money From FEMA for Flood Damage, Still Fraction of Ultimate Tab

The school system has spent at least a third of that already, $24.6 million. Of that, the school system has recouped about $15 million.

by Charles Lussier, The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. / May 16, 2017

(TNS) - Total damage from the August flooding is likely to cost the East Baton Rouge Parish school system between $75 million and $100 million, according to newly released figures.

The school system has spent at least a third of that already, $24.6 million. Of that, the school system has recouped about $15 million — $10 million from maxing out its flood insurance policy and $5 million from FEMA.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency began cutting reimbursement checks to East Baton Rouge schools in April. On Thursday, the federal agency announced the latest $1.1 million in payouts. FEMA will pay up to 90 percent of flood damage not covered by insurance. The school system has millions more worth of outstanding reimbursement requests and plans to seek tens of millions dollars more.

The $5 million is part of nearly $79 million FEMA has awarded so far to Louisiana schools for this disaster. East Baton Rouge Parish schools, with almost 41,000 students, is the second largest public school district in Louisiana and was one of the most heavily damaged in the flood.

The $5 million in FEMA reimbursement covers costs from the initial days and weeks after the mid-August storm. That includes the gutting and fast-tracked repairs to Twin Oaks Elementary, which reopened Oct. 1, the first flooded Baton Rouge public school to reopen.

The FEMA money is covering, after the fact, the gutting and repair of the school system’s Professional Development Center on North Sherwood Forest Drive. Also, the feds have reimbursed remediation costs for four other schools: Greenbrier, Howell Park and Park Forest elementaries, and Park Forest Middle School.

A total of 16 school district properties flooded — 10 schools and six administrative centers. Most are under repair or set to undergo repairs this summer. Work on the rest is slated to start next year.

What FEMA will reimburse and won’t is determining both the pace and the scale of repairs.

For instance, while temporary repairs are underway at Glen Oaks High School to get students back by the Aug. 10 start of school, the cost of permanent repairs remains in doubt. A few weeks ago, school officials pegged that project at nearly $22 million, but quickly backed away from that number as negotiations with FEMA continued.

The initial overall damage estimate released in late August was about $50 million. In its revised general operating budget, released in early April, the overall flood damage price tag was estimated at $88 million. Adonica Duggan, a spokeswoman for the school system, said that number is still in flux. She suggested instead the broader range of $75 million to $100 million as the likely damage tab.


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