Deadly Kentucky Flooding Devastating to Schools, Children

A school bus in a flooded creek near Jackson, Kentucky
A school bus in a flooded creek near Jackson, Kentucky, on July 31, 2022. SETH HERALD / AFP via Getty Images
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The flooding that killed at least 39 people in eastern Kentucky this summer also rampaged through Robinson Elementary School, collapsing the roof and destroying three decades’ worth of Robin Combs’ math curriculum materials, The New York Times reports.

As they mourn the deaths in their community, including some children and staff, students and teachers from two schools in hard-hit Perry County are preparing to go back to school — in one building. Despite only having running water in her own home for one day in more than three weeks, Ms. Combs has been working overtime to get lesson plans and facilities ready for students, while also hosting morale-boosting events to provide essentials like toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Command Sergeant Major Tim Lewis of the Kentucky National Guard escorts 3 children to the helicopter in South Fork, Kentucky in Breathitt County on July 30, 2022. Michael Swensen / Getty Images

Others, like Tara Boggs, who teaches at Fleming Neon Middle School, are doing all this in the dark, as a flooded basement has kept power off throughout the rest of the school. “We’ll teach out of anywhere,” Chasity Short, who will be teaching her third-graders in a refurbished locker room at Robinson Elementary School, told the Times, displaying a dedication that is expected of teachers but rarely, if ever, compensated.

Children draw on a dry erase board donated by the community as they seek shelter with their family at West Perry Elementary School on July 29, 2022 in Hazard, Kentucky. Michael Swensen / Getty Images

Climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is making extreme rain events and the flooding they set off worse and more frequent. While physical damage can be repaired, the long-term impacts of the floods will remain. “I just hate it,” Ms. Boggs told the Times. “I hate that some of these kids will never, ever be the same again.”

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For a deeper dive:

The New York Times; Climate Signals background: Extreme precipitation increase, Flooding

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