Bridge City school officials have a plan for a new 100,000-square-foot elementary school, combining the Hurricane Ike-damaged Hatton and Sims campuses to teach grades Pre-K through 2. 

However, two things need to happen before the project can get underway.

In the proposal, Hatton Elementary would be torn down and a new campus built, Superintendent Jamey Harrison said. 

“We know we can get $2.5 from our insurance company,” he said. “That’s cash value minus depreciation. Our ‘project worksheet’ approved by FEMA for Sims is $4.4 million. [‘Project worksheet’] is a FEMA term that says ‘This is what you applied for.’”

The district has also put-in for $4.9 million through the Community Disaster Loan Program, which provides a five-year loan usually re-evaluated after three years.

What the district is still waiting on is the possible passage of Senate Bill 4586 in the state Legislature. Recently the bill passed in the House and will go to the Senate Finance Committee. If it moves forward to the Senate and passes, Bridge City ISD’s portion will be $8 million. 

Also holding up things is FEMA approval to cover the Hatton school.

“Sims and Hatton are very similar,” Harrison said. “So if it goes through, we’ll probably get the same as Sims – $4.4 million.” 

If the bill passes and Hatton FEMA funds approved, the disaster loan funds would be applied to another facilities project within the district.

“We recently went to Austin to meet with Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), a member of the Senate Finance Committee,” Harrison said. “And he is with us 100 percent.

“We’re fully aware of the traffic situation in front of Hatton on Roundbunch Road, and we are working with local and state officials to help alleviate that.”

Ultimately the school board will have final approval of the project, but will likely side with a Bridge City ISD Facilities Committee which recommended the proposal after being formed several weeks ago.

The architectural firm of Mark Magnuson and Associates, which previously designed Bridge City High School, has been retained by the administration, Harrison said.

Hurricane Ike left many Bridge City ISD facilities in unusable conditions. At present, both Sims and Hatton elementary schools are conducting classes in modular buildings.

District 19 Reps. Mike Hamilton (R-Mauriceville) and Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) sponsored HB 4586, which, in addition to the Bridge City funding would provide monies for construction of a vocational training center at Lamar State College-Orange.

“It is important to repair the educational facilities in Bridge City that were damaged by Ike so the children can learn in a secure environment,” Hamilton said in a release. 

Hatton took on about two feet of water during the storm. Sims was damaged much worse, receiving more than four feet of storm surge.  

Sims is a cinderblock building with underground conduits, and damage there was primarily electrical and mechanical. Equipment such as chillers and boilers will have to be replaced. 

Hatton, also an old cinderblock building, encountered mechanical, electrical and plumbing problems. Earlier this year, temporary repairs had been completed at the intermediate and junior high schools. Permanent repairs are planned for this summer when students will be out.