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Parents and educators plead for help as flood damage still has autism center closed

Floodwaters left the Center for Autism Education with about $50,000 worth of damage, and school is set to start next week.

ST. PETERS, Mo. — Parents and educators are pleading for the community's help.

It's been exactly two weeks since historic rainfall hit the St. Louis area and one St. Peters school is still closed from the extensive damage. Administrators still aren't sure if they will be able to open their doors to students next week.

The Center for Autism Education received about 2 to 3 inches of water inside their building from the flood, according to Executive Director Angie New.

She said all that water damage is why they had to cut about 2 feet of drywall all around the building.

This is why New and her team are asking the community for help, as they scramble to get ready for school, which is set to start Wednesday, Aug. 17.

"It's vital for the population that we serve for our students to have a consistent routine, so something like this, it's not only devastating and hurtful for the student, but for the families, as well," she said.

From the outside, the Center for Autism Education looks like it's in pretty good shape, but as soon as you walk in the door, you don't have to go far to see the damage.

"Just walking on the floor, you know, you can feel just the glue from the carpet," New said, as she walked through the hallways.

According to New, flood waters left them with about $50,000 worth of damage.

The rushing water destroyed six rooms in the school, she said.

This has now left those spaces empty, with walls exposed, and classrooms in 'shambles,' as New described it.

"We're still finding things that are destroyed, as far as like beanbags, couches, things like that, so there's still a lot of work ahead of us, but you know, we do have a lot of support," she said.

This is work that, according to New, has to happen fast with school starting in a week and money that has to come out of the agency's pocket because they don't have flood insurance.

"It's unfortunate because that money that we're spending, getting this building ready, could be spent on our students, and the quality of our programs," she said.

That's why Gena Hedgpeth started a GoFundMe because she knows what this school means for her grandson, Marek, and so many others.

"This is their place," Hedgpeth said. "This is where they get to go and they get to be themselves. It's just heartbreaking to me to think that sometimes, you know, they already have a difficult time as it is, and then to be left out one more time, you know, this school is their world and they need it."

Now, Hedgpeth is calling on the community to step in.

"Help us to help them, you know, and it's not about our family. This is about the whole school, and all of these kids that are out there, and they need this," she said.

New said there are several ways you can donate to the Center for Autism Education.

You can do it directly through their website here or through the GoFundMe here.

New said their need changes daily, as they find new things that are damaged. If you want to donate items, you can message the school on Facebook to ask what they need.

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