Crews are working to repair the flood-damaged Vernon Malone College and Career Academy, but it’s unclear when the 350 students at the specialized Wake County high school will return to class.
Vernon Malone, located on Wilmington Street in south Raleigh, has been closed since Monday after flooding from Hurricane Matthew damaged several classrooms in the main building. The school is closed through Tuesday, and school officials are working through where and when the students will go to class after the end of their now-extended fall break.
“We are in the process of working on a plan that will get us back with our students as quickly as possible and get our teachers back to teaching and our students back to learning,” principal Ashlie Thompson told reporters Wednesday.
Vernon Malone opened in August 2014 in a renovated Coca-Cola bottling plant. It’s a partnership between the Wake County school system and Wake Technical Community College.
Students can graduate with a high school diploma and training in eight specialized areas taught by instructors from Wake Tech. Program offerings include automobile-collision repair, cosmetology, welding, nursing assistant, bio-pharmaceuticals, simulation and game development, applied engineering and multi-trades, which covers air conditioning, electrical and plumbing.
The damage from Matthew led the entire Wake County school system to close Monday as a number of schools were without power. But even though the other 176 schools reopened Tuesday, Malone remains closed.
Thompson said the auxiliary building which contains several of the specialized programs was not damaged. But workers are still assessing the damage in the main building where students take both their high school classes and some of the Wake Tech classes.
“It’s going to take some time and it’s going to take some work,” said Thompson, who helped open the school. “But we can put in the time and the work to get our building back to where it was, which is an absolutely beautiful facility.”
Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities, said the district does not know yet how much it could cost to repair the school.
Based on the amount of damage, school officials decided to extend the fall break for Vernon Malone that was scheduled to begin Friday and run through Tuesday. The storm means students will wind up missing four days of class this week.
Parents and students have rallied around the school during the emergency. Thompson said the families are the school’s first priority.
“We all love our school and love the opportunities that are created for students here at this school so they are concerned and we understand their concern,” Thompson said. “But right now the thing that we’re asking them to do is just be patient with us a little longer.”