Rebuilding Rockport-Fulton schools after Harvey restored community’s faith in each other

Five years later, bonds are even stronger than the buildings

ROCKPORT, Texas – For the Rockport-Fulton community, each new school year is especially meaningful as it leaves the devastation of Hurricane Harvey further in the past and pushes healing forward.

Five years later, the painful memories still sit right on the surface.

“It’s still emotional. It was rough. It was a rough time for all of us,” said Rockport-Fulton High School Principal Rhonda Mieth.

Mieth was the high school’s assistant principal when Harvey’s eye bore down on their town.

“Every school sustained some level of damage. Our central office has been completely demolished. They had to tear that completely down,” Mieth said.

Her school took the brunt of the damage, rendering most of it unusable and sending students to neighboring schools.

“The storm tore homes apart, tore schools apart, but it also tore the community apart -- the school community. People that you had worked with for years, you didn’t get to see on a daily basis. The students that you cared about so much, you didn’t get to see. So it was really shocking to not feel that comfort that you were so accustomed to,” Mieth said.

That’s why the school community felt such gratitude for coming back together when they were finally able. They were in portables or sectioned in small wings of the buildings, but they didn’t care.

Five years later, the buildings look immaculate, but Mieth said those involved know that restoration is still happening.

“It wasn’t until just this year that we finally got all of the roof leaks fixed,” Mieth said.

She said the roofs didn’t entirely peel off the main buildings like the gym, which they rebuilt from scratch.

It’s the same gym viewers saw the day after the storm in several KSAT reports. The building, reduced to debris, was impossible to recognize.

RELATED: Rockport-Fulton HS heavily damaged, buildings destroyed by Hurricane Harvey

That gym was where Aransas County ISD Athletic Director and high school football coach Jay Seibert oversaw practices, games, and other memory-making events.

Seibert remembers a question his son asked him as they drove back into town the day after Harvey hit.

“He said, ‘What are we going to do? Everything’s destroyed.’ And I said, ‘Son, we were going to have to pick it up, you know, just like any other mess,’” Seibert said.

They didn’t waste any time.

“That afternoon, there was probably about 10 to 15 kids that came up, and we actually cleaned the football field,” Seibert said.

That day, those athletes became part of a much bigger team.

“A kid came by, and he said, ‘Hey, my parents need some help.’ So we all got in cars and helped clean their house, and then it kind of became a thing,” Seibert said. “I think one day out here in the parking lot, we probably had 200 kids. It’s been a process, and it’s not been an easy one or one I want to go through again, but it was something that I felt made us stronger and made us better people.”

With a team that was strong and dedicated, a win was inevitable.

“Five years later, I think our town is more beautiful and nicer than it was before,” Seibert said.

The beauty he’s talking about doesn’t just lie in shiny new buildings. It lies in the love that Harvey was clearly never able to shake.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.