Flood-delayed students reach the Clay Center
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last month's heavy floods might have postponed Verdunville Elementary School students' field trip to the Clay Center, but Thursday's sunny skies allowed them to finally immerse themselves in science.
About 30 preschoolers and kindergarteners scattered throughout the center's science galleries -- where they learned about body health, the value of composting and X-rays -- during a field trip the youngsters have talked about for nearly a month.
Heavy thunderstorms struck most of Southern West Virginia on March 15, causing many streams to flood and isolating several communities.
The elementary school in Logan County sits atop a hill, but the high water covered the roads leading up to the school. Parents and buses couldn't get to it, so about 45 students, along with teachers and staff members, prepared to spend the night inside the school.
A typical "early release day," when students leave school by 12:30 p.m., turned into keeping the kids calm and occupied, said pre-K teacher Debra Secrist. Most of the students didn't mind spending extra time at school with their friends, she said.
"The children realized we were at the school longer than normal, but they thought we were having a party," Secrist said. "We didn't tell them anything was wrong. We tried to stay as calm as we could, to not instill fear in them."
Secrist said she and other teachers played games, watched movies and popped popcorn to entertain the children.
The later the night got, though, students started questioning when they could go home. Children asked about bedtime and Secrist even rocked one boy to sleep.
Verdunville Elementary didn't lose power and had phone service throughout the day, which helped keep worried parents at ease, she said. Parents were able to talk to their children throughout the day using cellphones and school phones. Teachers fed students dinner in the cafeteria.
Despite the flooding, some parents didn't want to leave their children in the school so they used four-wheelers to travel over the high water.
Others, such kindergartener Maddy Hoffman's parents, even climbed over the mountain behind the school to get their children home.
"My parents climbed down the mountain to get me and I got mud all over me," the 6-year-old said. "It was scary climbing the mountain."
First-year kindergarten teacher Joyce Varney said her initial reaction "wasn't one of pure panic, but I was very nervous."
Varney said the students missed six days of school because of the flooding. The day they got back to school, though, they started asking about their Clay Center field trip.
While the Logan County community has been devastated by the storm damage, Secrist said it has been a blessing to see her neighbors come together and help one another. Some students, such as kindergartener Caleb Williamson, 6, lost much of their homes to the flooding. Williamson said his family has had to stay at his father's friend's house.
On Thursday, though, Williamson was excited to play with his friends at the science center and not think about the flood.
"To have sunshine today, the students have confidence that they can go back home. We have to remind them that, just because it rains, it doesn't mean there will be flooding," Secrist said. "It's been a great diversion to get them away from the flood area."
Reach Megan Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5113.