The hardship and complications wrought by this year’s catastrophic flooding are continuing for many families into the new school year. It’s encouraging to see school districts in Nebraska and Iowa strive to provide support during these difficult times even as the districts themselves cope with major change.
Hamburg, Iowa, is among the communities hardest hit, with the loss of 200 homes by Missouri River floodwaters. That will mean about 20% fewer students for the Hamburg Community School District, The World-Herald’s Joe Dejka reports. Hamburg and several other districts went the extra mile in providing transportation during the immediate crisis in the spring. But now, as families take up stable residences away from Hamburg, the district will no longer be able to transport them from nearby districts.
The difficult fact for some parents, said Superintendent Mike Wells, is that “if they want to come to our school, they’re going to have to transport themselves. And a lot of those families lost their cars and lost their homes. They don’t have means to get back and forth, so they’ll be forced to go to other schools, which is sad. Sad for our kids.”
Still, in Hamburg and other communities, Dejka found, school officials and staff members are making all-out efforts to provide students with as much stability as possible. School personnel will be especially attentive to helping children cope with stress.
“I really feel for the families because they’re in a difficult position,” said Shenandoah Iowa Community Schools Superintendent Kerri Nelson. “Schools are pretty resilient. We tend to find ways to serve students and tend to find ways to adjust and overcome. But families, they need a lot of support right now.”
In so many places, school districts have demonstrated laudable community spirit. “We basically had a Walmart set up in our gym, and in our shop area was our food bank,” said Wells, with the Hamburg Community School District. It’s encouraging to see that the support was a two-way phenomenon: Hamburg schools have received enough donations so every student can have free school supplies.
In many communities, the restoration of road connections is vital. State and county crews have done admirable work reopening roads, but some remain closed, leading to longer bus routes.
One much-appreciated accomplishment was the temporary road around the collapsed Highway 39 bridge, allowing Nebraska residents in Genoa and Silver Creek to get back and forth. One of the most impressive and creative efforts to cope with the flood this spring was the Twin River district’s use of laptop-enabled teleconferencing to continue classes for students in those towns. The project required great flexibility by teachers and staff, plus technical improvising that restored a vital telecom connection that had been severed when the flood destroyed a bridge and fiber optic cable along with it.
Terrible flooding has brought frustration and pain to many Midlands families. But the situation also has allowed Nebraskans and Iowans to demonstrate admirable solidarity and generosity. That, in itself, can be a positive lesson for young people about the strength of their communities in the midst of hardship.