ST. AMANT, LA (WAFB) - Some top White House staffers made a stop in Ascension Parish Thursday afternoon to tour a school hit hard by the flood last August. 9News was given an exclusive look inside Lake Elementary School in St. Amant.
Second graders at Lake Elementary have settled in for another year of learning. Their teacher has all the tools she needs to help them succeed, but as school principal, Jeremy Muse, points out, their school setting is not ideal.
"Our biggest challenge right now is our space. We have plenty of room, but we do have like for example, our kindergarten classes are two [sections] in a classroom," said Muse.
Some 900 students and their teachers at Lake Elementary have been attending class in temporary buildings since last school year. The August flood damaged their home turf. It's still in disrepair one year later.
"It makes you want to go home," said Muse.
The walls are gutted and the classrooms are not suitable for learning. Lake Elementary is nowhere near how they remembered it, but Superintendent David Alexander says while it might be hard to believe, construction crews are making progress. "We're excited about moving forward with the process. I know it feels slow, but there are steps that have to be taken," said Alexander.
Alexander, as well as local and state leaders, took a big step Thursday. They gave FEMA and examiners with President Donald Trump's Office of Management and Budget a personal tour of the school. Alexander says thanks to the school board and former system leaders, Ascension Parish Schools has been able to dip into its own bank account to get the ball rolling on repairs at some of its flooded schools, but he says that money will only go so far.
"We finished St. Amant Primary and Middle schools, but we still haven't gotten word back from FEMA on whether those projects are [financially] obligated. We feel certain they will be, but we're ready to pay our bills now and ready to file for those reimbursements," said Alexander.
The last year brought on some tough lessons for those who had to live and learn through it. Principal Muse hopes it leaves a lasting impression with those who decide on the future of his school.
"Hopefully, they [federal representatives] will also see the strength we have and how much better that will be in a permanent building when we get back in there," said Muse.
Lake Elementary School is scheduled to reopen next school year.