FEMA Grants Move West School Construction Forward - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

FEMA Grants Move West School Construction Forward

Posted: Updated:

Big news out of West Monday -- $20 millions big.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it will give that amount of money to rebuild West schools.

"Our house was destroyed," was Payton Landrum, a freshman at West High School.

The last ten months have been about rebuilding Landrum and her family, and not just at home.

"Every class period, I change buildings, so I walk outside a lot," Landrum said. "It's the cold that kind of gets you walking to classes."

Landrum and her classmates have to use temporary buildings and makeshift walkways to get between them.

Monday's announcement of more than $20 million in FEMA grants brings West ISD one step closer to a more permanent home.

"The federal help is what they needed to sort of get them over the resource hump, if you will," said Congressman Bill Flores, who made the initial announcement in West.

The money will cover the funding gap, the difference between the insurance payout and what rebuilding actually costs.

Until now, West ISD hasn't seen that federal money.

"We had been operating on faith and faith alone," said Marty Crawford, superintendent of West schools.

"I think we've got them to a point now where they can really do some significant planning and get along in that process" of rebuilding, said Kevin Hannes, the FEMA rep in charge of the West explosion.

Kids have been going to class in what looks like, and essentially is, a construction site. School leaders hope that with the grant money, they'll be moving earth within six months.

"Everything is going, I think, uphill from now," West H.S. sophomore Mason Tobola said.

It's a slow process, but one that can pick up momentum with the new funding.

"It'll take a couple years," said Mayor Tommy Muska, "but we're moving forward."

The biggest step forward for students like Landrum is the promise the grants bring.

"I think it's just more hope," she said. "With everything that's going on, it's great to have hope and help."

FEMA has already given the town of West roughly $16 million in aid. The agency still needs to survey the roads again before deciding on even more funds.

But the $20 million-plus announced Monday is earmarked specifically for schools.

"Everybody's been really supportive of us," WHS sophomore Sierra Reese said. She's still adjusting to the temporary school arrangements, too. 

"Classes are so spread out now that ... we really have to work to get to classes on time," she said.

Flores and local leaders hope the grants will go a long way to getting kids back in real hallways.

"Without the schools you wouldn't have the community," Muska said, "and without the community you wouldn't have the schools."

The money will be divided between two projects: just under $2 million to rebuild the intermediate school, and almost $19 million for the high school.

City and school leaders hope to have construction bids out by June or July so they can start building by August, and start teaching there by late 2015 or early 2016.

It takes "a lot of money, and it's just going to take some time to rebuild the schools," said Ted Helm, whose kids graduated from West schools.

To clarify, that's not all the money. West ISD is expecting around $53 million from their insurance.

The FEMA money will go to bridging the gap between that and actual reconstruction costs.

"Our goal is to get them back to where they were," Hannes said, or even better than they were.

Right now it won't take much to get better than they are.

"Honestly, inside hallways. Because I'm really cold," Landrum said.

And in the meantime, "it gives us ... something to look forward to," said Reese, while the rest of the city continues to rebuild.

FEMA says this is not the final payment for the city, and that the agency will be there until West is fully recovered.

  • Latest NewsMore>>

  • Korean War Monument Unveiled

    Korean War Monument Unveiled

    Saturday, April 19 2014 7:49 PM EDT2014-04-19 23:49:31 GMT
    (KCEN) -- Jesus Perez joined the Air Force in 1951 and went to Korea a year later, but he says many people overlook the war he fought. "A lot of people forget about this," Perez said. "You look at the history books and there's one little sentence. Not a paragraph. Just one little sentence."On Saturday morning, the Central Texas chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association set out to fix that with the unveiling of a new monument. It was an emotional moment that brought back memories for vete...More >>
    (KCEN) -- Jesus Perez joined the Air Force in 1951 and went to Korea a year later, but he says many people overlook the war he fought. "A lot of people forget about this," Perez said. "You look at the history books and there's one little sentence. Not a paragraph. Just one little sentence."On Saturday morning, the Central Texas chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association set out to fix that with the unveiling of a new monument. It was an emotional moment that brought back memories for vete...More >>
  • Thousands of Hispanic Youth Descend on Waco for 50th Annual Congreso

    Thousands of Hispanic Youth Descend on Waco for 50th Annual Congreso

    Friday, April 18 2014 8:19 PM EDT2014-04-19 00:19:28 GMT
    (KCEN)-- More than 5,000 Hispanic Baptist youth are in Waco for 50th Annual Congreso. It's the largest annual gathering of Hispanic Baptist young people in the state of Texas. This is the sixth yearMore >>
    (KCEN)-- More than 5,000 Hispanic Baptist youth are in Waco for 50th Annual Congreso. It's the largest annual gathering of Hispanic Baptist young people in the state of Texas. This is the sixth yearMore >>
  • BBQ Joints and Backyard Grillers Feel the Heat of Rising Meat Prices

    BBQ Joints and Backyard Grillers Feel the Heat of Rising Meat Prices

    Friday, April 18 2014 6:31 PM EDT2014-04-18 22:31:15 GMT
    (KCEN) – If anyone knows BBQ, it's Roy Hamilton. The 79-year-old has been around it his entire life. It's who he is. His father started Maurice's Pit BBQ in Harker Heights back in 1951, and now the fingerMore >>
    As you get ready to dust off those grills, be prepared to pay more. Beef and pork prices are skyrocketing just in time for BBQ season.More >>
Click for Local Doppler Radar
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KCEN, Owned and Operated by London Broadcasting Company. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.