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Interim Supt: ‘Herculean job’ helped get MSCS schools ready for students after storm

Ranging from power outages to a ruptured fieldhouse, about one in four schools across the Memphis-Shelby County Schools district was affected by the recent winter storm.

According to MSCS officials, crews spent the last few days assessing, repairing, and monitoring damage. The first storm of the winter delivered frigid temperatures, had 226,000 MLGW customers without power at one point and forced tens of thousands to cope with life-altering water-pressure issues.

Interim Supt. Toni Williams said MSCS facilities and grounds teams did “a Herculean job” as they worked Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, and every day in between to ensure schools affected by the storm were operational for students’ return to class on Tuesday (Jan. 3).

“I thank our crews for the countless hours they spent over the holidays taking care of our buildings so that principals and teachers can keep their focus on taking care of our students,” said Williams.

(Photo: Memphis-Shelby County Schools)

Coil replacements in HVAC units were one of the most common repairs. Restoring classrooms, restrooms, and cafeterias were the highest priority. In the coming days, crews will continue to make repairs to additional spaces such as music rooms and gyms.

In a media release, MSCS reported that “all identified safety concerns were addressed. Cosmetic work is ongoing. The cost estimate, including supplies and overtime hours, is still being calculated.”

Described as a Navy veteran with an eye toward efficiency, Julius Muse (right) is the new chief of Business Operations for Memphis-Shelby County Schools. (Photo: Memphis-Shelby County Schools)

MSCS new Chief of Business Operations Julius Muse supervised school repairs and discussed hotspots with principals.

“With such a significant undertaking, it was essential that we worked in partnership not only with our school leaders but also with Memphis, Light, Gas, and Water, and our Shelby County Office of Code Enforcement,” said Muse. “Because of this team approach, we were able to ensure that students had safe spaces to return to….”

MSCS emphasized that a challenge going forward is that 33 schools are 50-plus years old necessitating more skill and attention to maintain the aging infrastructure, especially after severe weather.

(Photo: Memphis-Shelby County Schools)

The media release about the post-storm work referenced a soon-coming review of a 10-year infrastructure improvement plan with the MSCS school board and funding bodies.

“MSCS joins the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the American Association of Civil Engineers in supporting nationwide investment in school infrastructure,” was an assertion included in the release.

Families and teachers wanting to share an area of need were encouraged to contact their school principal, call the district helpline at 901-416-5300, or email myinput@scsk12.org.

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