On Tuesday night, Cobb County's Emergency Management Director Lanita Lloyd said the school is a "total loss." Superintendent Fred Sanderson could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but a district spokesman said the inside of the school was ruined.
"It's in really bad shape. There was water so high that ceiling tiles floated out," spokesman Doug Goodwin said.
Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olens weighed in, saying "They'll never rebuild there."
This morning, Clarkdale students will be arriving for classes at two nearby schools, Compton Elementary and Austell Intermediate, where they will attend at least through the end of the semester. Students will have their same teachers, district officials said.
"We will have counselors on hand to help address emotional issues. Students will be with their same teachers as before, so that will help. There is a parent meeting tonight so the principal can talk with parents and discuss transportation and other issues related to the new arrangement," spokesman Jay Dillon said on Wednesday.
Clarkdale was built in 1963 on Wesley Drive in Austell. The school has more than 440 students in grades kindergarten through fifth.
School leaders hosted a meeting for parents last night at Ewing Road Baptist Church in Austell. They passed out information about a temporary bus plan and emergency assistance listings.
Principal Marjorie Bickerstaff told a packed church sanctuary of more than 300 parents, students and teachers that Clarkdale will remain Clarkdale, despite the geographic change. She said PTA meetings, field trips, fundraisers and other school events will continue. And parents who call either Compton or Austell Intermediate will have an option of being transferred to a Clarkdale representative.
"I know many of you are going through hardships of your own. I think what this is going to do is to make us an even tighter family," Bickerstaff said to applause.
A Cobb school official later kicked members of the media out of the meeting, saying it was conducted only for the Clarkdale community to inform them about school plans.
Shane and Amanda Purcell live two streets down from Clarkdale and were not impacted by floodwaters. However, they will be sending their 5-year-old daughter, Aubrie, who is in kindergarten, by bus to Compton.
"I think on the whole, the teachers and the staff did the best that they could," Amanda, 29, said. "It happened so fast with the water coming up and they got (students) out safely."
Thankfully, Aubrie will have the same bus driver, who stopped by their home Wednesday to say hello, said Shane, 37.
But for fourth-grader Joy Adiele-Nzenwa, who will be going via bus to Austell Intermediate, the situation is a little frightening of her new school; the 9-year-old said she was nervous about "how it looks like."
Her mother, Eno Nzenwa, said it will be a big "inconvenience to her" because the bus will be coming by 30 minutes earlier and dropping her off 30 minutes later. Their home was not damaged.
Mark Greene is a Clarkdale music teacher who will be going to Austell Intermediate. He said he lost "everything" in the flood.
"We're all shocked. There's been a lot of loss," Green said. "We're very fortunate that nobody got hurt or injured in the flood."
Earlier Wednesday, Russ Danser said Facebook had been a great resource for fellow Clarkdale parents to keep updated. Danser's daughters Madeline and Olivia attend Clarkdale, and Danser was PTA president there three years ago. Ironically, Danser, 40, is an environmental planner who consults with state transportation officials about floodplains.
"My kids are scared. They don't know what's going to happen to their school. On Tuesday, Olivia's teacher called to check on her," said Danser, who is also dealing with three feet of water standing in his Sweetwater Valley home. The family is staying with relatives.
His daughters will go to Austell Intermediate, about four miles south of Clarkdale in Powder Springs.
The district does have flood insurance, Goodwin said.
Although the heavy rains fell across the county, no other school was seriously damaged. Dillon said there had been "some minor water damage at a few schools, but it has all been cleaned up."
How to Help
Donations for the Clarkdale Elementary School Relief Fund may be made through the Cobb Schools Foundation. Donations may be made online at cobbschoolsfoundation.org or mailed to: Cobb Schools Foundation, 514 Glover St. Marietta, Ga. 30060. All contributions are tax-deductible.
Donations of school supplies and teacher instructional supplies can be made at your local Cobb County school. The warehouse staff will pick up donations at your school and take them to the warehouse for distribution to Clarkdale students and teachers.