Waverly students begin the year scattered after supply chain stalled temporary school

Posted at 9:34 PM, Aug 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 08:23:25-04

WAVERLY, Tenn. (WTVF) — After August 2021's historic flooding killed 20 and destroyed Waverly's elementary and junior high schools two weeks after the start of school, Humphreys County Schools made plans for a temporary school while the new schools were being built.

Although the district planned to open that temporary school in the old Acme Boot Factory in August 2022, supply chain challenges pushed the opening date back to December meaning students will start the year spread out sharing classrooms similar to how they did after the flood.

The McEwen campus will house pre-K, kindergarten and first grade. The second grade of Waverly Elementary is on the McEwen High School campus in the auditorium. Third graders of Waverly Elementary will go to the community college down the road in Waverly.

Fourth and fifth graders will go to Lakeview on the other end of the county in New Johnsonville. Sixth, seventh and eighth graders will merge onto the Waverly Central High School campus at the high school."

That plan for the start of the 2022-2023 school year is nearly the same set-up the district used after the flooding and throughout the rest of the 2021-2022 school year.

"At the end of the day, the teachers...they want to do what they do," Humphreys County Schools Director of Schools Richard Rye said. "And you know, I'm very proud of them for the resilience they have and making it happen. I looked at test scores as a whole, we're at the state average, we're at pre-COVID [scores]. So I was very impressed with that and a shout out to them because they made it happen even through trying times."

Humphreys County Schools Director of Schools Richard Rye grew up in Humphreys County and graduated from the school he was the principal at before moving into his district-wide role.

In addition to the death of two students and the loss of two school buildings, the district lost 150 students to other counties.

"At $1.1 million with state revenue that's lost," Rye said. "And so we've had to adjust some things that we've moved some teachers around and usually we don't have to do that, but we had to do that this year. They don't have a place to live. The Creek View and Brookside down here, there’s two busloads of kids that the bus picked up where they don't have homes anymore, so, they've had to go somewhere else."

Despite having a budget shuffle to accommodate for the loss of funding, Rye said the district did not have to let any teachers go.

"Some of our teachers lost their homes and their classrooms, so, it's been tough," Rye said. "Our jobs are to educate those young people and these teachers they take pride in that, and they're gonna do what they've got to do to make it happen."

Rye explained that they're going to assist them in any way possible.

In addition to losing two students and two schools to the historic flooding in August, Humphreys County Schools lost all 17 of their buses.

During the summer before the devastating flooding, Humphreys County Schools hired a social-emotional learning liaison — a position that proved vital to making it through the school year.

"She had to shift more to the flood liaison in whatever needs. She tries to get with the parents and get help for those students that need that," Rye said. "Our caseload is very high [especially around the holidays]....we need about five of her."

While funding remains tight for more counselors and for renovations, Rye said federal and state funding came through and plans are well on their way to having a new elementary and junior high school in three to four years.

"Just be patient with us. We are trying and doing everything we can. Everybody wants things yesterday and I do too," Rye said. "But some of these things are out of our control. We are working hard every day to try to make things better. But it's just it's a slow process."

The district plans to make use of the temporary school after students are no longer in it by moving the administrative offices there.

Although Waverly's temporary school was set to open in August, supply chain challenges pushed the opening back to December causing the town's elementary and junior high school students to start the year scattered at other county schools.

Rye said the district's teachers know that options are limited.

He said he is grateful for the resilience of not only the teachers but also the students and their families.

"There's still a lot of rebuilding to do. I mean, you still see the evidence of the day of that flood. But what you also see is the hope of getting back on our feet again," said Rye. "It's taken a year, but we still got a lot of recovery to do. It's now that we're in that stage of this ‘let’s make every day better than the day before,' and that's what we're trying to do."

The temporary school Humphreys County Schools is working to finish for Waverly elementary and junior high students will become the district's administrative building once the Waverly students' elementary and junior high schools are rebuilt.