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Central Texas experienced historic winter weather the week of Feb. 14, with a stretch of days below freezing. Sleet followed snow followed freezing rain, leading to a breakdown of the electric grid and widespread power outages. Water reservoirs were depleted and frozen pipes burst, leaving some without service for days.

Austin ISD Estimates Schools Have $15 Million Worth Of Damage From The Winter Storm

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Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Austin ISD says 70% of its schools were damaged by the winter storm.

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Just a couple days ago, there were two inches of standing water in one wing of Lamar Middle School after a pipe burst, causing water to leak into classrooms and hallways. On Wednesday, the water was cleaned up, but the classrooms remained in disarray.

One room, where costumes for theater productions are stored, had boxes of clothes stacked on tables and dresses hanging from the ceiling. A culinary arts classroom, which is where the pipe burst, bore the brunt of the damage. Fans were running to try to dry everything out, and there were holes in the wall where pipes needed to be replaced.

And in the music classroom, which was filled with electric pianos, officials didn't know the extent of the damage because it wasn't safe yet to use the electricity and test the instruments.

Seventy percent of schools in the Austin Independent School District suffered damage similar to Lamar's during last week's winter storm. Burst pipes, flooding, water loss and power outages caused a variety of issues at 90 schools.

Matias Segura, the head of operations for AISD, estimates there is $15 million worth of damage from the storm. He said the district has to pay to complete repairs up front but will seek reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its insurance company to try and cover those costs.

He said the district hopes to get most schools open and ready for students by Monday. Students are doing remote learning only until schools are ready to bring back students who have opted for in-person learning during the pandemic.

There are four schools that might not be ready by then because their damage was much more significant. Those schools are Kocurek Elementary, Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy, Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy and Bowie High School.

"What I'll tell you is day by day we're seeing our buildings improve significantly," Segura said. "So we want to be mindful of the fact that some of these could still come back online. But right now, to take a conservative approach we are assuming those won't be available."

Schools that can open next week, like Lamar, might have to block off certain parts of the building that are still being repaired.

Got a tip? Email Claire McInerny at claire@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.

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