Flooding from the heavy rains during Ida has delayed the return to classrooms in several hard hit communities — and put at least one school building out of commission for the foreseeable future.

The South Orange-Maplewood school district suffered damage to both facilities and transportation that will delay the start of classes until Monday, according to a letter sent to families from school officials.

Cresskill Schools Superintendent Michael Burke told PIX 11 that the Cresskill Middle/High School will not open anytime soon, because of severe damage from flooding — including four boilers that have to be replaced at an estimated cost of $3 million.

Flooded auditorium at Cresskill Middle/High School
Flooded auditorium at Cresskill Middle/High School (CBS New York via YouTube)

"The damage was extensive. We were overwhelmed with water probably three to four feet of water throughout the entire building. Not only did it enter from the outside but it got into the inner part of the school. The auditorium, the media center, the old gym is under the media center. The floor buckled. That has to be replaced," Burke said.

The school will be all remote as classes start on Thursday.

Burke said the district is trying to find two locations to serve as a temporary high school and middle school classrooms so classroom instruction can resume.

"The most pressing concerns for our reopening center around our school buses and transportation vans. We have been working closely with our insurance adjuster and the mechanics that we have an ongoing relationship with to assess the situation. At this time, we have received updates that have made us somewhat optimistic that our transportation fleet will be operational sooner than our original estimates," according to the South Orange-Maplewood school district.

Employees were praised for working "tirelessly" through the weekend to remediate the water damage but it proved to be a daunting task to make repairs to the district's buses.

Classes in South Orange-Maplewood are tentatively scheduled to start on Monday, with staff returning to classrooms for preparation on Thursday and Friday.

Rahway Schools Superintendent Patricia Camp told NJ.com that delaying the start of classes will give students and their families  to "get themselves back together" before the start of school.

Paterson Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer said the state has given the green light to go all remote, Wednesday through Friday, to allow for completion of repairs to affected school buildings. She said in a letter that the decision had nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our buildings are safely equipped with the several layers of protection and protocols we have outlined before," Shafer said. “Having our students remote allows facilities staff unencumbered access to complete their restoration.”

House damaged by flooding in Lambertville
House damaged by flooding in Lambertville (Edwin J. Torres/ NJ Governor’s Office)

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Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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