Flood separates Silver Creek, Genoa students, but soon they will be reunited

The Loup River was running high in March when it damaged Nebraska Highway 39 south of Genoa.

Split apart by flooding, the Nebraska communities of Genoa and Silver Creek will soon be reconnected.

That would be good news for school district officials who had to cope with an unusual situation after the flood.

Work is underway on a temporary shoofly, or bypass, road that will divert traffic around the Nebraska Highway 39 bridge that collapsed when the Loup River flooded in March.

The shoofly will reunite marooned Silver Creek students with their classmates in Genoa and return the Twin River district to regular operations next school year.

Once the shoofly opens, the district will no longer need to operate a makeshift school in Silver Creek, where students were taught via video conference after the flood.

Superintendent John Weidner said the district would get back to normal operations.

The district serves about 440 kids in the communities of Genoa, Silver Creek and Monroe.

The flood effectively isolated 100 kids in Silver Creek from their elementary and high school in Genoa. It also took out an alternate route between the communities, Monroe Road.

Both roadways were severely damaged. The Nebraska Department of Transportation awarded a $2.96 million emergency repair contract to Simon Contractors of North Platte to replace the highway bridge and build the shoofly road.

The new bridge will be 230 feet long, about twice as long as the old one. That will allow more water to flow underneath in future floods.

The highway bridge is not expected to open until late fall.

The single-lane shoofly, controlled by traffic signals at either end, should open this summer.

"We're shooting for an August opening, and I hope to make it by the time school starts, but I can't guarantee anything with the weather we've been getting," said Wesley Wahlgren, the department's District 4 engineer.

Two other contractors, Paulsen Inc. of Cozad and Van Kirk Brothers of Sutton, are repairing the highway south of Genoa, where the swollen Loup River took out about a half-mile of the highway. Those repairs are estimated to cost about $4 million. "We got the pavement placed last Friday, and we're needing to shoulder it," Wahlgren said. "With the rain we've been getting, we're having a hard time getting dirt work done."

Meantime, although the Twin River Elementary school building in Silver Creek, where the makeshift school was housed, bustled with students temporarily after the flood, its future under normal circumstances is in doubt.

Declining enrollment has district officials considering no longer holding classes there.

Before the flood, the school enrolled 21 students. If it stays open next school year, it would have 15, Weidner said.

School board members have scheduled a special meeting Monday to take public input on its future.

"Our numbers are way down, have dwindled over the last three years to the point that we can probably move everybody up now to the Genoa site," he said.

The district could still use the facility and its gymnasium for practices, junior varsity games and other events, he said.

School board members will discuss its future at their July meeting.

joe.dejka@owh.com, 402-444-1077

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