Minot needs to replace Erik Ramstad Middle School, said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., after touring the wreckage Tuesday afternoon.
"To me, this is a no-brainer," Conrad said.
Ramstad, built in 1958, wasn't built to meet today's energy efficiency or technology standards, said Conrad, so it would make more sense to build a new school from scratch, one that meets the needs of 21st century education.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., talk with Minot school administrators, school board members and local government representatives outside Erik Ramstad Middle School on Tuesday during a tour of the flood zone.
Minot Public Schools Supt. Mark Vollmer showed a tour group the amount of damage done by the flooding at Erik Ramstad Middle School.
The senators visited Ramstad first on a tour that also took them to flooded homes in southeast Minot, including the historic Eastwood Park neighborhood, where a faith-based group of volunteers was helping a family with the cleanup effort.
At Ramstad, Conrad and Hoeven spoke with school superintendent Mark Vollmer and school board members about the extent of the damage. Vollmer estimated that replacing the damaged schools could cost between $40 million and $50 million, with $28 million to $30 million of that the cost of replacing Ramstad. Ramstad is also located in the flood plain, making it possible that the site could flood again. A surviving sign in the school marks the level of water in the school during the 1969 flood, at just a few feet from the floor. The water line for the 2011 flood is an inch or so from the ceiling.
Ramstad, which had floodwater up to the ceilings for about a month, resembles a bombed-out wreck with windows knocked out, countless walls caved in, and mud and silt caking the floors.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is evaluating the building for damage and hasn't yet come up a report on whether it thinks the schools can be salvaged or not, said Vollmer.
Conrad and Hoeven also asked about prospects for repairing the two most badly damaged elementary schools, Lincoln and Longfellow, which they did not have time to visit Tuesday.
John Huenink, director of the education group for the Minneapolis-based Kraus Anderson Construction Company, the disaster consulting firm the district has hired, said it might be possible to fix Lincoln, but it would be an expensive fix.
Huenink said it would be possible to spend hundreds of thousands or a few million just mucking out a building. That might be a waste of money if it turns out that the building needs to be torn down after all.
Longfellow, less badly damaged, had between 30 inches and four feet of water in the school, depending on where in the school it was. The concern with Longfellow is that mold might be growing inside the walls. Those spots must be found, cleaned out and the walls patched up.
Also heavily damaged were the Adult Learning Center, Central Campus Plus, the district's alternative school program for grades 9 and 10, and the Head Start Building.
Alternative locations had to be found for all of those schools. Ramstad students will be attending classes at the Minot Municipal Auditorium; Lincoln students will be attending classes at First Presbyterian Church; Longfellow students will be in portable classrooms on the grounds of that school; Central Campus Plus students will be on the campus of Quentin Burdick Job Corps Center; Head Start students will be in portable classrooms on the grounds of Jefferson Early Childhood Center. The start of school has been delayed until Sept. 6. The governor has agreed to forgive five days from the school year for Minot due to the flooding.
Hoeven and Conrad both said funds should be available to replace or remodel the damaged public schools. FEMA will fund 90 percent and the state seven percent.