1 in 4 Memphis-Shelby County schools damaged by December winter storm

Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 10:19 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Shelby County School students went back in the classroom Tuesday as crews work to repair hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage done to 1 in 4 schools caused by December’s arctic blast.

The district says 29 schools were damaged by the winter storm a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s very important to make sure that we get our schools up and running and keep our doors open for our kids to come in and learn,” said MSCS Building Operations Manager Julius Muse. “It’s a big priority for us to make sure the kids have a clean safe learning environment.”

New Building Operations Manager Julius Muse says it will cost about $300,000 to repair water line breaks, broken HVAC coils, damage caused by power outages and more.

" The infrastructure of the buildings is a big factor in how we prepare for some of our older buildings, they’re 30, 40, 50-year schools,” said Muse. “The infrastructure is just not built to withstand that type of extreme cold.”

The district was unable to provide the names of all 29 schools that suffered damage over the holidays but did say there were power outages at Douglas, Whitehaven, and Kingsbury High Schools.

Muse took news media on a tour of the damage caused by a water line break where a new water bottle refilling station at Dr. William Herbert Brewster Elementary was in the process of being installed.

Muse says as of Tuesday, there are 10 schools that still need repairs and that does not include Memphis charter schools.

Students at Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering also returned to the classroom today.

The building housing the school’s cafeteria, main office, seventh, eighth and some high school classes suffered heavy water damage after burst pipes.

MASE Executive Director Rod Gaston says repairs are still underway and estimates the damage to cost about $1 million.

" We went through each class, went over some rules regarding this building, kind of like the first day of school again for the entire student body,” said Gaston.

Students are set up across the street in temporary classrooms at Northwest Prep Academy until repairs are complete.

“Just seeing a new building, new classrooms, and stuff without the decorations the teachers used to have, it’s kind of something to get used to,” said MASE student London Dyson.

They tell us even though it’s a new experience, they’re looking forward to a new semester.

“We have tremendous teams at MASE,” said Gaston. “We are family. Since last week, our team has the word every week to make sure the building was prepared to receive the students on today.”

MSCS says the money for needed repairs is coming from the district’s emergency fund and from insurance claims. They also say staff monitored schools during the holiday break and credits them for being able to catch these problems.

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