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Irene packs punch for ENC schools

Public schools in the eastern part of North Carolina suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Irene, among the worst that’s ever been experienced in the state.

The N.C. State Board of Education, which oversees the state’s public school system, heard the initial assessment of damage left behind by the Category One hurricane at their scheduled board meeting Wednesday.

At least 19 school districts and seven community colleges were affected, with a minimum of 40 schools that are damaged, said Benjamin Matthews, the director of school support division for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Those numbers will rise dramatically, since the DPI has been unable to make contact with officials in the worst-hit coastal counties — Dare, Currituck, Jones, Martin and Pamlico – to hear what the damage is like in those areas.

Matthews said the damage was significant, and gave the example of Tyrrell County. The Inner Banks county (the least-populated in the state) had almost all but one of its school buildings flooded by three feet of water. The high school gym was the only one building not damaged by flooding.

The total cost of Irene is far from clear. The state had been advising school districts in flood-prone areas to buy flood insurance, but many school districts didn’t, Matthews said.

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