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Support grows for Tennessee governor’s plan to relocate schools

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:23 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tuesday’s rainfall in the Mid-South didn’t cause major problems for schools, but recent history shows it’s possible.

The devastating scenes from Waverly, Tennessee, which was hit by severe flooding last year, are seared in the minds of many, including Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

“The tragedy, the heartache, the loss was hard to take in,” the governor said during his State of the State address earlier this month.

The governor recalled touring the inside of an elementary school that had been badly damaged.

“I saw desks and backpacks and books piled up against the door where the water rushed out. If the Waverly flood happened on Friday instead of Saturday, we would be mourning the loss of hundreds of Tennessee children,” Lee said.

The National Weather Service says a record-smashing 20 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period in Waverly.

The governor wants to make sure this type of devastation never happens to another school, so he’s proposing a $200 million plan to relocate 14 schools out of flood plains, including three in Shelby County: Lowrance K-8 School and American Way Middle School, which are both part of the Memphis-Shelby County Schools district, and Wooddale Middle School, a charter school operated by Green Dot Public Schools and part of the state’s Achievement School District. Wooddale Middle School currently occupies a building owned by the Memphis-Shelby County Schools District.

Flood Ready Tennessee, a coalition of local leaders, homeowners, and first responders, announced its support for the governor’s plan. It sent this statement to Action News 5:

“Flood Ready Tennessee commends Governor Lee for taking proactive steps to move government assets, and more importantly children, out of harm’s way. Relocating flood-vulnerable schools to lower flood risk areas will pay dividends in avoided losses and is an example of the fiscal stewardship and responsible leadership Tennessee is known for.”

Memphis-Shelby County Schools and the Green Dot Public Schools say they look forward to reviewing the governor’s plan once more specifics are unveiled.

State officials have not said how much local districts and governments will have to contribute.

Those answers could come when the Tennessee Department of Education presents its budget to lawmakers next month.

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