By Cheryl Magness
An Oct. 20 storm that spawned 10 tornadoes in North Texas is now being called the most expensive tornado outbreak in state history, with cleanup and repair costs estimated at $2 billion.
Included in that price tag is Dallas Lutheran School (DLS) in Dallas, Texas, a grade 7–12 school of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) that sustained extensive damage to the roof of its main building as well as other areas of campus.
No one was injured in the tornado, which hit on a Sunday evening when classes were not in session, but David Bangert, DLS’ executive director, reports that the building that houses all of the school’s classrooms is “unusable.”
“Both ends [of the building] had severe damage from the winds,” Bangert said, “and subsequent rain events … have caused further problems and the possibility of mold and mildew throughout. Our athletic fields have no fencing left, and our scoreboard is gone, while dugouts and a press box/concession stand were destroyed.
“A small garage collapsed on [the school’s] new Ford Transit van, and a few other small buildings were destroyed outside. Our gyms and large gathering hall — Klekamp Hall — received a lot of outside superficial damage (broken windows, siding gone, and HVAC units moved), but are structurally sound enough for us to use.”
Repairs to the building and campus are currently estimated at over $6.5 million. The first steps have already begun, with BELFOR Property Restoration managing the process.
BELFOR will be constructing temporary classrooms, cleaning up the fields and taking inventory of damage to classrooms. Even though the school has property insurance, the cost of cleanup, rebuilding and temporary buildings may exceed the policy limits. There is also a large deductible that will need to be met.
Local volunteers are also helping out. Bangert reports that, less than 48 hours after the storm, some of those volunteers moved all of the books and furniture from the library, which lost a large portion of roof, to other rooms. On Saturday, Oct. 26, almost a week after the storm, approximately 165 volunteers from the school community, area churches and neighborhood came together to remove as much debris as possible before BELFOR’s arrival.
‘Rise up, rebuild, rejoice’
As the school moves forward with cleanup and recovery, it is doing so under the theme, “Rise up, rebuild, rejoice,” based on Neh. 2:20: “Then I replied to them, ‘The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build.’”
In the meantime, classes are being conducted online, with small groups meeting in other locations, such as homes or coffee shops, to study or do homework together. Plans are underway to resume at least some classes on campus in the near future.
“We are blessed to have two gyms,” Bangert notes, “so we have turned one of them into classroom space with six classroom areas cordoned off. We also have a few other areas in those other buildings that we are turning into temporary classrooms for the time being.” The next stage — the date is not determined — is to set up portable buildings for holding classes until repairs on the permanent building are complete.
How are the students and staff doing? “Better than I expected,” Bangert says. He is thankful that there were no deaths or injuries and that parts of the campus are still usable enough that the school was able to proceed with several scheduled events.
He adds that an unexpected blessing came as many DLS students and families who are not Lutheran became more aware of “how our school is part of a large network of Lutheran schools — a family — that all care for each other.” The student body of DLS is about 25 percent Lutheran.
The blessings continue. “We got electricity restored in less than 48 hours when they predicted 7–10 days,” Bangert notes. “We have been immeasurably blessed throughout this process with prayers, messages and monetary contributions. The outpouring of volunteers is another blessing. …
“This will be a lot of work for everyone over the course of what will surely be a long process. … To know that people all over the country are thinking of us is pretty special.”
To learn more about Dallas Lutheran School, or to support the cleanup and recovery, visit dallaslutheranschool.com.
Posted Nov. 1, 2019