Torrential rain floods some Austin ISD buildings and campuses

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several weeks of torrential rain brought significant flooding to some Austin Independent School District campuses.

It’s even happening at brand new schools paid for through the 2017 taxpayer-approved bond.

KXAN viewers sent us images of the Murchison Middle School track and field flooded over during the month of May. Other images show heavy rainfall pouring down the hillside that connects the newly constructed Doss Elementary. A final image shows rain seeping into the newly constructed wing of Murchison Middle School, making an indoor staircase unusable.

Images from the Murchison Middle School track shows significant flooding on a portion of the field. (Courtesy: Lauren Ward)

“We decided to build these new schools. Well, they better be built for another 50 years,” said Lauren Ward, a parent of three Austin ISD children. “It just seems to me that if you are going to spend the money to build these new buildings, then let’s get it right.”

Zack Pearce, the Director of Project Management for AISD, said while the optics may look bad, the district has implemented new flood mitigation strategies at these sites through the 2017 bond. What you are witnessing, they say, are those strategies in action.

There is a 63,000 gallon cistern which collects rainwater that falls on the Doss Elementary roof. Over the next 120 hours after a rainfall, that water will be evenly dispersed through a sprinkler system on the school grounds. Three rain gardens we’re built along the perimeter which act as retention ponds to grow natural wildlife. There are also three new drains on the football field, which funnels to a nearby retention pond on the Murchison grounds, which then funnels to a city storm drain.

“It’s tough to contain it, so we have addressed it in every way we can,” Pearce said. “It’s designed to come on the field, hold there for a short period of time and then it’s usually off within a few hours.”

According to the official KXAN rain gauges, Doss elementary and Murchison Middle school received over 10 and a half inches of rain during the month of May. That’s around double what it would normally see during the same month on a typical year.

Rain has seeped into the newly renovated stairwell at Murchison Middle School. AISD said the work is under warranty and will be fixed.

“Those systems do get overwhelmed when you have rain for nine days straight and two to four inches in a nine-hour period,” Pearce said. “I think we have taken every step we can to control the flooding and the water mitigation from the roof and from the site.”

Ward mentioned her lingering concerns for when the water continues to settle on the track, which was newly renovated in 2016. Pearce, however, said the track is all-weather, allowing for the elements without significant damage occurring.

As for the rain that seeped into the Murchison building, Pearce said that it is still under warranty. Contractors have not yet left the Murchison construction site, so they will go back to make those repairs before they finish their project. Pearce anticipates that to be done before the next school year.

A manager with the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department called the Doss Elementary flood mitigation strategies exemplary. He said the neighborhood surrounding the schools is not nearly as flood-prone as other areas of town, and thus, is not being considered as a priority.

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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