Students in the Richland 2 school district will return to school on Monday after a week-long break caused by the historic flooding that inundated the Midlands this week.
The district will have a two-hour delay through next week. Spokeswoman Libby Roof said it is unknown whether the delay will continue after that.
Richland 1 students must wait a little longer for a decision on when they will return to school.
Richland 1 spokeswoman Karen York said district officials are continuing to assess conditions, including roads in heavily affected areas such as Lower Richland and the Gills Creek watershed. York said district officials were set to meet Friday afternoon, but she said she could not say when a decision would be made.
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“I just can’t put a time on it,” York said.
Cheryl Harris, the chairwoman of the Richland 1 school board, said she rode in a helicopter on Thursday and a military Humvee on Friday to survey Richland 1’s flood damage.
Harris said she saw many roads and bridges closed and other examples of flooding damage throughout the district, especially in Lower Richland. Harris said some areas and neighborhoods there are still inundated by floodwaters and that many bus routes will have to be redrawn, some with new, complex paths through backroads.
Harris said what once was a 5-minute drive from Hopkins Elementary School to Hopkins Middle School took her more than 40 minutes Friday in the Humvee. Even more troubling, she said, was meeting with some of the families who had been affected.
“I was seeing some of my parents telling me they lost everything,” Harris said. “It kind of hit me.”
Richland 1 covers urban, suburban and rural areas over nearly 500 square miles. The district ranges from northern Richland County in the St. Andrews area to Sumter County.
York refused to say on Friday whether Richland 1 would consider opening schools in one part of the district while leaving schools in another part closed. Harris said Richland 1 officials have not discussed that option.
“This is an unprecedented event,” York said. “This isn’t like anything we have dealt with before.”
Three other Columbia-area districts are re-opening schools on Monday after closing this week. Students in Lexington 1 in the town of Lexington and Lexington 2 in Cayce-West Columbia will report to school on Monday on a two-hour delay. Lexington-Richland 5 in the Irmo-Chapin area is opening on Monday at the normal time.
The delays are meant to allow bus drivers and others on the way to school to drive during daylight hours, officials have said.
Lexington 1 and 2 officials said their districts haven’t yet decided how long the two-hour delay will last. That may hinge on how bus routes fare on Monday, they said.
Lexington County officials will spend the weekend attempting to make 10 miles of roads in the rural southern and western areas passable for school buses.
Parts of the 1,200-mile network of Lexington County roads are washed out, with 30 roads totaling 24 miles impassable.
“It’s going to take up to 12 months to get the system back together, to make them what they were,” Lexington County Public Works Director Wrenn Barrett said. “Parts were destroyed, absolutely destroyed.”
Lexington 3 in Batesburg-Leesville and Lexington 4 in Gaston and Swansea didn’t suffer major complications from flooding and re-opened their doors earlier this week. Lexington 4 had a two-hour delay this week but will not have any delays next week, said Lisa Ingram, the district’s community relations coordinator.
Staff writer Tim Flach contributed to this story.