Though classrooms spared by flood, Guerneville School sees up to $500,000 in damage

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Powerful floodwaters knocked over sycamore trees like dominoes, shifted walkways and inundated playgrounds outside the Guerneville School.

Classes resumed Tuesday for the 270 students at the campus, but school officials still are assessing the damage from last week’s flooding along the Russian River, the worst in two decades.

While parts of the Armstrong Woods Road campus were under 10 feet of water, not one drop spilled into the classroom buildings, which sit on higher ground.

“We were so fortunate,” said Amber Stringfellow, Guerneville principal. She said floodwater surrounded the K-8 school “like a moat.”

Flooding, however, damaged a maintenance building where a golf cart and lawn mower were stored, as well as turf around one of the school’s three playgrounds. It also shifted tree roots, which then ruptured waterlines and a tank. The tank was replaced Sunday.

So far, damage is estimated at $300,000 to $500,000, Superintendent Dana Pedersen said.

The school closed for a week because of he flood and cleanup. Fifteen power washers were used over the weekend to clear the sludge.

“We worked around the clock to get our school open,” Pedersen said Wednesday. “It was industrial cleaning. It was massive.

“The kids were thrilled to be back. There was lots of hugging and tears,” she added. “They were ready to jump back into their routines.”

School officials said 40 students had homes that flooded. Most are staying with family, friends or in hotels, but two already have transferred schools.

“Right now we have a number of students displaced, and we don’t know if they will relocate or stay in the area,” Pedersen said.

Students this week had community circles, allowing them to talk with peers and teachers about how they were affected by the flood. Therapy dogs and two additional counselors also were provided Tuesday by the Sonoma Office of Education.

“I visited all the classrooms,” Stringfellow said. “For the most part the students were upbeat.”

Pedersen said the school will have three make-up days in June and one in April to compensate for lost class time.

Five miles down the river, Monte Rio School reopened its campus Monday. The K-8 school escaped flood damage. Although it’s just across from the Russian River, it is on higher ground.

Nathan Myers, principal and superintendent, said six students from three families were temporarily displaced as a result of the flood. He said students have discussed their flood experiences in class, and teachers gave them time to process.

“At this point in time everybody seems to be incredibly well,” Myers said. “The community in Monte Rio is very resilient.”

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or susan.minichiello@pressdemocrat.com.

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