Safford school reconstruction underway with incalculable cost

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Lafe Nelson School will likely not reopen until next year as crews continue to repair the facility from storm damage.

By Brooke Curley

SAFFORD – The damage from October’s hail storm has shuttered Safford’s normal school structure, and only time will tell how bad the storm has effected the facilities’ infrastructure and students.

While rumors swirl around the Gila Valley as to the cost of reconstruction and school reopenings, Gila Valley Central contacted Henry Dunkerson, Director of Instructional Services at the Safford Unified School District to answer some questions regarding the cost, and possible timelines.

“We have not been given a cost for reconstruction,”Dunkerson said. “We met with the trust (insurance provider) and the construction companies on Tuesday (Nov. 8). A dollar figure was not discussed. We did suffer damage on six different sites. Lafe Nelson School will have all new carpeting, sheet rock replaced and a new roof. HVAC units will be repaired or replaced at most sites. Safford High School will have (the) carpet replaced on the lower level and walls partially replaced.”

Dunkerson told Gila Valley Central that the Safford School District has a $1,000 deductible for insurance. So far, nothing has been spent that will not be reimbursed by the school’s insurance. However, the projected completion date for the Safford High School is Dec. 15.

“The dates for Safford Middle School, Dorothy Stinson School, and Ruth Powell School will be determined soon,” Dunkerson said.  “It could be next school year before Lafe Nelson School reopens.”

So far, the cost of the storm has not been calculated because of the various possibilities of damage due to surfaces needing to be opened and exposed to fully understand the range of destruction.

“It is hard to assess the damage by merely looking,” Dunkerson said.  “It isn’t until some of the effected areas are tore out that construction crews can determine the full extent. So yes, there were unforeseen damages.”

Dunkerson said he is worried about the disruption of the children’s school environment and the impact it might have on the students.

“I’m more concerned with the disruption to learning for many students,” he said. “Having to leave your school almost nine weeks into the school year can be rough for students and teachers. We will need to determine the overall impact it has had on our kids.”