Happy New Year (2018)

#postHarvey Recovery Update

A Great Blessing at a Great Cost.  As the rain poured over Houston and the news forecasted unprecedented rainfall, I sat in my living room behind the screen of my laptop trying to find something productive to do for my school instead of fretting about it. I knew it would take hours and I also knew I couldn’t get out of my house until the rain stopped and the waters receded. I got the first indication that the power was off at the school, a text that a power surge tripped the fire alarm. That was expected. Then I started receiving a different kind of alarm, a burglar alarm. Power surges are normal, burglar alarms are not. Movement was detected in one of the classrooms, then the next, then another. Harvey had crept into our classrooms and was destroying our building inch by inch.

Upon inspection Sunday evening, all the classroom floors were covered in water; the walls were soaked at the bottom. The courtyard, which is usually filled with green grass and joyful students,was filled with water to the edge of the concrete. I walked through each room in shock and arrived at the front hall to find that several families had come to check on their beloved school. “What should we do now?” they asked me.

The front hallway became the command center with objectives for demolition, mitigation, and rehab posted and achieved daily. Hundreds of volunteers, from students, to neighbors, to strangers (now friends) came to help. We started at 9 and ended at 7 every day. We completed the demolition in just 5 days; the building dried for another week and a half. And then we began planning how to teach 142 students in an alternate location: the Cypress Alamo. 

For three weeks we orchestrated a modern-day one room school house with older students and younger students learning together and growing in ways they had never expected. Passive learning was not possible at The Alamo. Students had to help one another and become more self-sufficient and focused as we combined classes. The end result was that our students walked away with a greater love for their building, their community, and their own education. Harvey entered as a burglar and left us with a stronger and better community.

One parent commented, “I can easily imagine a situation where the students would have been put “on hold” while the school building was rebuilt. It would have been understandable if the leadership was paralyzed at the material loss and the enormity of the task to rebuild what Harvey damaged. But, instead of simply getting through this interim time, the students have been challenged to grow in different ways by having school “outside the box.” This has taken a tremendous amount of creativity and effort. No one appreciates it more than the parents who have been and will be blessed by the growth of our children.”

God’s Provision. We have replaced every floor, baseboard,floor cabinet, book case, and portions of every wall. We moved most of our student materials and teacher resources to higher ground prior to the flood but lost thousands of dollars in sheet music and other teacher resources.  Our claim was fully funded by our insurance company! The cost for demolition and rebuilding was about $650K and our policy provided just about that same amount. The donations that we received helped us to get the school back up and running while we were waiting for the insurance claim. Without these, we would not have been able to re-open as quickly as we did. Not only did donations help us act quickly, they paid for expenses that weren’t covered by insurance. The teamwork and volunteer efforts of our local, state and nationwide community helped our school to save thousands and thousands of dollars. Thank you! Your help with demolition, installation, cleaning, building, and installing helped our school tremendously. Because of your teamwork, the kindness of donors, and a frugal mindset, the Board of Trustees has created an emergency fund.

Without a doubt, Hurricane Harvey dramatically affected the life of our school. But God’s grace was greater than the flood: we were able to re-enter, recover, and restore in record time. He provided for our every need: sent volunteers, supporters, and other angels of mercy from all over the country, at just the right time day after day after day. And now, even with the remaining tasks on our Harvey to-do list, our school is running smoothly, and our facility looks fabulous. We’ve reduced clutter and streamlined storage to rebuild a school that feels like home. Even more, we’ve grown stronger as a community as we’ve leaned into this hard time together. God is good.

Love that Exceeds the Damage. We’ve been incredibly blessed by the support that we’ve received at the local, national and international level. Corporations, schools, churches and individuals have reached out to help with everything from demolition to reconstruction to fundraising, even furnishing our office! God has provided abundantly and we are forever grateful. From our little school to yours, thank you!!

Leslie Collins
Head of School at Covenant Academy
Cypress, Texas