IRMA: Hurricane causes flooding at Polk charter school

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, September 14, 2017, 3:37 PM EDT

A Polk County charter school is now figuring out how to rebuild after Hurricane Irma completely destroyed the roof to one of its buildings.

On Wednesday, most of the ceiling tiles inside Bok Academy’s Administrative building had been removed, as water dripped from above. Puddles spotted the art classroom.

Dozens of volunteers salvaged whatever furniture and books they could. Others moved musical instruments to another classroom, hoping they could be saved.

Principal Damien Moses said he was shocked to see the destruction when he entered the building after the storm had passed.

His first thoughts were, “Oh my gosh. How are we going to continue our school year?”

Moses said the building houses the school's offices, and music and art classes.

Visual arts teacher Tiffany Weaver was holding back tears. She knew the roof wasn't in great condition prior to the storm, but she never expected this level of destruction.

"What gets me is the kids' artwork," Weaver said. "You know I don't want to throw anything away. The art teacher in me wants to keep everything so it's hard to, it's a little overwhelming to decide what to keep what not to keep."

In another classroom, Agriculture Teacher Paul Rigel was working to save the instruments.

“The cases got wet so now I'm trying to dry them out,” said Paul Rigel. “We're trying to salvage them all. The wooden clarinets and the oboes might be in trouble."

Hurricane Irma also ripped to shreds the school's new radio telescope. So now, those astronomy lessons will have to be put on hold.

"It is heartbreaking. It is difficult when you have such an extraordinary project, such a unique project and so many community partners to see the destruction,” said STEM teacher David Lockett.

Lockett said the radio telescope and astronomy classes were a new project the school and its students were working on with NASA and the Museum Astronomical Resource Society.

"We will rebuild and we'll refocus our energy for our students to learn and grow from this experience,” Lockett said.

While the school's principal believes classes will still be able to be held on campus in the school's other buildings, sixth grader Mary Leigh Hardman wondered how that was possible.

"It's just so sad to see such a beautiful school being torn to pieces and trash everywhere,” Mary Leigh Hardman said.

Damien Moses plans to resume classes at the school Monday.

Anyone wishing to help the school rebuild should contact the Lake Wales Charter Schools Foundation.