Firm Says West Schools Need Demolition

A local architecture firm says the high school and intermediate school campuses in West will need to be completely demolished after sustaining structural damage in the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion.

A third school --- West Middle School --- will have to be partially demolished.

Huckabee Associates Inc. in Fort Worth told the West school board it would take about $17 million to get all students back in their hometown schools by August, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.

The money would pay for repairs and temporary classrooms.

Only West's elementary school is open. The school is temporarily hosting fifth- and sixth-grade classes, as well.

Students in grades seven and above have to commute to Connally schools in Waco, about 15 miles away.

Huckabee Associates also proposed new middle and high school campuses on the site of the current high school by 2015, which could cost as much as $80 million.

Insurance adjusters still have not been able to visit all of the damaged buildings and complete their assessment, so it's unclear how much the school district would get from an insurance settlement.

State lawmakers will meet Wednesday to discuss regulation of plants like the West Fertilizer Co. facility in West and try to figure out if the blast could have been avoided.

Eight state agencies will testify at the hearing, which will be more of a fact-gathering mission. A state chemist based at Texas A&M University also will attend.

The group will also discuss the possibility of creating an database that can show the public exactly where such plants are located.

Rep. Joe Pickett, chair of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, said he hopes the hearing will be the start of an ongoing conversation. There are many questions, and the hearing is the start of the search for answers, he said.

The hearing begins at 8 a.m.

NBC 5's Ray Villeda contributed to this report.

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