When Hurricane Harvey made landfall, unimaginable flood waters came, and Creech Elementary and it’s surrounding community were the hardest hit. One year later, the Comets are blasting past the heartache of Harvey, and back on their home campus.
KATY MAGAZINE | September 2018
By Natalie Cook Clark & Ashley Lancaster
The Rising Waters
To the many students and faculty of Creech Elementary, August 15 didn't just mark the first day of school, but was a balm for the wounds inflicted during the torrential rain and subsequent flooding that displaced Creech families last year.
The campus was one of the most badly damaged properties in Katy ISD, and was the focus of several local and national broadcasts. Second grade teacher Ginger Dewberry remembers coming to the slow realization that her beloved Comet families were in trouble, watching, horrified, as her students were forced to evacuate their homes.
"The last time I was at Creech before the storm, I really just thought we'd have a few days off and then the still new school year would resume. I couldn't believe it when a friend sent me pictures of the hallways and I could see my chairs floating down the hall along with the wall calendar I had worked so hard on," she recalls.
Photo courtesy of Dawn Champagne
The long arm of the storm extended further than anyone could have expected. Many teachers and campus administrators had their own devastation to deal with, including principal Euberta Lucas, whose home in Waller county saw flood damage as well. But campus leaders and staff were not content to sit idly by and merely watch while their beloved students suffered, so they decided to help.
Saving Their Students
With no other recourse than to remain in her home until the storm dissipated, Dewberry quickly became crucial in dispatching boats to get families in the area out of flood waters, and 800 rescue crafts were dispatched to nearby homes to her credit by the time Harvey was over.
"I was home and couldn't get out so I just started texting our Principal and Vice Principal and fellow teachers. Before I knew it I was dispatching boats to get our families out of the waters. I just kept calling and texting anyone that I could to see if they could help," says Dewberry.
Principal Lucas was also flooded away from Creech and couldn't get there until after the waters receded. "It was pretty devastating to drive through the communities and see the piles and piles of trash in front of everyone's homes. I saw sheet rock, cabinets, rugs, carpet and of course the toys," recalls Lucas. "I remember that once it all was picked up you could still see stray crayons and Lego pieces stuck in the mud."
The Silver Lining & Creech University
Once the flooding receded, Katy ISD and the faculty of Creech were faced with a daunting task. With their school in ruins, where would the students go? Everyone jumped into action from the janitor to principal Lucas and the Katy ISD board. In three short days, the district had the University of Houston Cinco Ranch campus transformed to be as close to an elementary school as possible. The transition was tough, with teachers often having to conduct two separate classes in the same room, having no gym or school playground for recess, and keep their students on track despite what they were going through at home, but they are forever grateful for the opportunity that "Creech University" gave them to stay together as a school family.
The experience made everyone a little stronger. "We learned how to make the best of it. My daughter, a fourth grader at Creech and I had a conversation about how to react to those who lost everything when she did not. The bottom line for her and all the students was that if you go through a bad situation, you can rise up," says Dewberry.
Vice principal Sally Gupton was astounded to see the overwhelming amount of support that was shown.
"Mrs. Lucas and I were contacted by principals of schools from around the country to offer tremendous amounts of support through donations from their own fundraising efforts," says Gupton. Their needs were abundantly provided for, from classroom furniture donated by other campuses to posters and other materials given to them by teacher associations.
Thankfully, there were less students displaced than Katy ISD had expected.
"Together we learned to make the best of a bad situation. They were so brave," says Dewberry. "What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger," says Lucas. "I think the levelheadedness of myself, my staff and mentors kept us going. With each problem we faced I would first think of the students putting the kids first and then the staff."
Comets Return Home
One of the little things that all Comets agreed to missing while as Creech University was the school assemblies. Due to a lack of space, they were never able to all get together as a school for plays, awards ceremonies, parties, etc. Now that the school is re-opened, everyone is stoked to be able to congregate like stars shining bright on a clear night.
"Being able to come together as a school family in one large room was a very happy and emotional moment for us all," says Lucas. Their mascot Comet, also played a key role in welcoming students back home. After all, he went through the same struggles, and his friends at Creech were impressed with the new dog house he built for himself after the flood.
The grown ups at Creech are amazed, grateful, and overwhelmed at the strength of their precious students, and it inspires them to make 2018 the best school year yet. Not least because they have seen the toll that Harvey took on some children, even a year later. During the first big rain storm since the school year began, kids were understandably emotional and afraid, and the staff was prepared to love them through it.
"The kids I taught last year during Harvey and while at 'Creech University' will forever hold a special place in my heart," says Dewberry.
A Legacy of Strength and Support
Both Lucas and Gupton are forever grateful for the unwavering support of the entire Katy ISD community and administration.
Superintendent Dr. Lance Hindt, who orchestrated the dispatch of Katy ISD buses and kept the district calm and collected throughout the storm, is proud of the way the Creech Comets overcame their adversity.
"It was a joy seeing our Creech Comets arriving at their newly renovated campus the first day of school,” said Superintendent Lance Hindt. “This past year, the acts of resilience from these students and staff have been a tremendous example of our community’s strength. Welcome home Comets,” he says.
"We simply could not have pulled off all that we did last year without the amazing faculty and staff that Creech has as well as the Katy ISD district and board," says Lucas. "I never though it would have been possible but we did it!"
Do you have a child at Creech Elementary? Share with us their favorite back to Creech memory below in a comment.