Several Merced County schools closed due to flooding, may take weeks to reopen

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Thursday, January 12, 2023
Three schools remained closed in Merced County after major flooding
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Heavy rainfall throughout the week has left Merced County soaked.

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- We are getting a short break from the soggy weather, but many North Valley towns are still dealing with the aftermath from the rain and flooding

Several schools in Merced County remain closed and officials have not been able to set an exact date on when they will reopen

Over 800 students are out of school and there is no date yet for a return. School officials are still working to figure out if they want to bus students to other locations or to rely on remote learning.

"We have about 180 employees that serve under 900 students, and out of these 150 employees about 60% or so live and reside within the community," said Jose Gonzalez, Superintendent of Planada Elementary School District.

The first priority right now is checking on employees to make sure they are okay, then checking to see if they are able to help get students back to learning.

Distance learning may seem like a simple solution, but school officials say the set up they had for Covid-19 is not an option.

"They don't have a safe space where we can send hotspots and chrome books to get them digital access to our teachers at home," added Gonzalez.

The hope Wednesday morning was to possibly open by next week after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but there is a lot more to it than just draining water.

"Approximately 90% of the classrooms had water intrusion, any flood water we term as category 3 flood water so there is going to be an extensive cleanup," said Gonzalez.

Rising water like what you see here behind me is what has school officials worried, and there is still more rain to come this weekend."

Fourteen miles west of Planada, sits McSwain Elementary. It also sits covered in water. A local couple who used to live across the street from the school says a lot of their former neighbors had to leave their homes with a moment's notice.

"They were taken out in the middle of the night and they were unable to get their cars and other things that belonged to them, so my suggestion would be for people to take what's valuable, your animals, your safety, and leave," said Daphne Post, Merced Resident.

There is an emergency school board being planned for Friday to solidify a plan, but with more rain on the way it's not likely that students will return to school next week.