Hamburg School District administrators and residents were disappointed to have their application for high school accreditation denied by the Iowa State Board of Education at the end of March, but remain undaunted and determined to maintain their Pre-K-8 facility and work toward growing the population so they can try again. The school district is discussing a big housing project with the city, and hopes are high to rebuild Hamburg as quickly as possible.
Hamburg School Superintendent Mike Wells said he was not surprised by the denial, but that he didn't think it was due to the flood that had devastated the town in mid-March and continued to do so, but rather due to the low annual student count at the district. Wells added that he thought the state would rather see all small rural schools dissolved and/or consolidated into larger schools.
During the process of their application for high school accreditation, the worst flooding Fremont County has seen in many, many years, took the county by surprise, flooding half of Hamburg, the towns of Percival and Bartlett, and a large amount of the countryside. Due to already saturated land with standing water remaining (in many cases from the previous fall and winter), and levees breached all along the Missouri River and in Fremont County, the floodwater remains and will be very slow to leave.
The town's water plant was flooded, prompting loss of water to the town, as well as electricity and gas to any houses or businesses with water in them. At the Hamburg School, they missed one day of school immediately after the disaster hit, then one more when the fire marshall wouldn't let them hold school due to water sprinkler issues. After that, it was back to school for Hamburg students; they used bottled water where needed, and porta-potties for restrooms.
Wells, the teachers and community members had mobilized immediately after the flood to set up an emergency shelter in the school's gymnasium for those displaced by the flood, and they and the students worked around this new addition. When water was shut off and the shelter had to be moved to Sidney, the school continued, and still continues, to accept donations of supplies and basic needs for the flood victims.
The school gym is currently full to overflowing with donated clothing, baby food, formula and supplies, bedding, some furniture, appliances, bottled water, sump pumps, generators, etc., that are all available to anyone who has been affected by the floods.
Students have physical education outside instead of in the gym when the weather is nice, and have otherwise been dancing or doing exercises in their classrooms.
Additionally, the school has been hosting three meals per day at the school for flood victims, serving about 30 for breakfast, 100 for lunch, and 200 or more for supper every day. Local organizations sign up to provide the evening meals.
When asked how the students were handling the disruption to their schedules and the new people in their building, Wells said he thought they were enjoying having the adults around, many were family members, and all had interesting stories to tell.
“Helping the people from their community like this is one of the best life lessons these students could get,” Wells added, “and returning to school and being a part of the solution helps the students deal with the devastation, too.”
The school is offering counseling to any students who need it, too.
The Hamburg Inter-Church Council food pantry has just relocated to the Marnie Simons Elementary gym, too, while their building is being cleaned out and repaired. They have cereals, potatoes, canned goods, cookies, snack crackers, tuna helper, hamburger helpers, bread, several different kinds of meat etc. They offer help to anyone affected by the flood, whether they are from Fremont County or not, and have plenty to go around. The food pantry is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 1p.m. to 6 p.m.
Kelley Randolph urged, “If you have been affected by the flood in any way, come get some groceries from us! If you are displaced from your home, if you can't get to your job, if you have extra people in your home, however you are affected, if you need food, PLEASE come get some!”
Wells said the Red Cross has representatives at the school; the Salvation Army representatives will be there for another week, and there are mental health services available at the school.
Legal Aid of Iowa will be at the school on April 15 at 10 a.m., to help people understand their rights concerning insurance, appeals, and renter rights. Unemployment assistance is being offered, too, when available.
Wells advised all those affected by the flood, “Anything you need, come here. If we don’t have it, we know of resources to help, and we’re not turning anyone away.”