Middleburgh school district recovering slowly from
Thursday, November 17, 2011
By Edward Munger Jr.
MIDDLEBURGH — With the help of students and teachers,
volunteers and the military, the Middleburgh middle and high
school building was opened only two weeks late after flooding
caused $5 million in damage.
Classes continue in different places and without the standard
equipment, but legislators and educators attending a student
presentation Tuesday learned about some of the intangible losses
some students won’t recoup as they complete their last year of
For Julia Prendergast, 17, the flood dashed hopes of a fun
senior year and the excitement that goes with it.
There’s no senior lounge now; it used to be in the lobby of the
gymnasium that was wiped out in late August.
And raising money for a senior trip is a difficult prospect, she
said, because none of the students wants to ask people in the
devastated village of Middleburgh for money as they’re trying to
cope with what’s left of their homes.
Another image students will leave their final year of high
school with, Prendergast said, is seeing their teachers “holding
School superintendents from around the region joined state
Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, and Assemblyman Peter Lopez,
R-Schoharie, for a presentation by students and a tour of the
school’s progress. It appeared some were holding back tears
themselves as they watched a video documentary.
The 15-minute film produced by Prendergast, senior Vicki
Robert and 11th-graders Courtney Paser and Vicki Robert — all of
whom stood in the muck after the flood — captured vivid images
of devastation and volunteer efforts to tackle it. It included
footage of interviews with students and staff and still photos
of footprints etched in inches of mud, overturned desks and
tables, mangled fencing and books strewn about.
Food service director Paulette Reynolds lamented in an
interview the new process by which students get their lunches
after the middle-high school building kitchen was destroyed.
Breakfast and lunch is now cooked at the elementary school down
the road and carried over to the middle-high school.
And despite “less of a choice in their lunches,” Reynolds
said she sees tolerance on the part of students.
“The kids have been wonderful,” Reynolds said.
Up until now, the Middleburgh district has spent roughly $1
million to get the school up and running, Superintendent Michele
Weaver said. That amounts to about 5 percent of the district’s
total budget. So far, the district has received no financial
Weaver said it was just two weeks ago when she met with a
representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for
the first time. Sources of funding, like insurance companies and
governmental agencies, appear to be waiting to see what others
will provide first before cutting any checks, officials said.
The group toured the most severely damaged parts of the
school building, including the technology and distance learning
classrooms. Those classrooms held the most expensive gear, which
the district had touted proudly after winning grants.
Following the tour, school officials planned to hear a
presentation from Capital Region BOCES Superintendent Charles S.
Dedrick focusing on options like sharing services and
consolidation. Dedrick before the presentation said he’s
confident educators in Middleburgh are covering the bases in
terms of ensuring students are getting the classes they should,
despite the environment.
But it’s the future Dedrick said is troubling.
“I think the long-term implications of this could be the
thing which could be the most difficult, that’s my big concern,”
Dedrick said. “Loss of property, loss of homes, loss of tax levy
with a new tax levy cap in place. What’s that going to mean to
The situation has left in question just how many school
districts will be able to remain in the flood-damaged Schoharie
Valley. The neighboring Schoharie Central School District
sustained catastrophic damage, as well, although its campus
escaped the brunt of the flooding.
“Let’s face it, that’s something that is going to have to be
answered. It is something that we’re going to have to make a
decision on,” Dedrick said.
Assemblyman Peter Lopez said he was “stunned” that the
Middleburgh Central School District hadn’t met with FEMA before
two weeks ago, but he hopes the state Legislature could work to
put school aid on a faster track for districts that really need
“Particularly when it comes to reconstructing critical parts
of their campus. That’s a discussion that we’ll be having,”
The districts have been gradually losing population under a
shrinking economic base, Lopez said, but the flood put that
process on fast forward, making ideas like shared services and
consolidation even more critical, he said.
For now, Middleburgh Superintendent Weaver said the district
will maintain a positive attitude.
“Today is better than yesterday, and tomorrow’s going to be
better,” Weaver said.