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New Sumas Elementary opens nine months after flood devastation

Some students still haven't been able to return to their flood-damaged homes.

SUMAS, Wash. — One of the main subjects in Jessica Wilkinson's second-grade class this year is "bravery." 

That's something students like 7-year-old Lewis Hammond are already well schooled in. He had to learn that lesson very quickly last year.

"I was scared, and I was glad that I could be on land at the church," he says.

Lewis' family had to evacuate to a church when the November floods came.

They were out of their home for two months.

"It was kind of sad, I wanted to go home but then we had to stay away for another month," says Lewis. " I really missed my dog."

Among the flood's many casualties was the old Sumas Elementary School. Floodwaters engulfed the school, closing it for months.

Officials divided the approximate 300 students between three other schools in the district to finish out the year. They determined the building wasn't worth saving, so they closed Sumas Elementary permanently and waited for the new one to be complete.

The new Sumas Elementary was already under construction when the old one flooded, and was not damaged by the winter storms. It reopened nine months after the historic flooding.

First-year principal Sarah Condreay said after two years of COVID-19 pandemic protocols and then historic flooding, it's important for students to return to normal.

However, a handful still haven't been able to return to their homes.

"They sure are resilient," said Condreay, who marked her first day as principal on the first day of the new school.

She said part of the strategy to help students persevere is to treat each classroom as a "family."

"We're doing some work around social-emotional learning and building classroom communities that are really supportive," said Condreay. "We're building a space where kids have a community where they can talk through things."

The new school was built by a local company, Faber Construction, whose workers actually helped rescue people during the floods.

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