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Rescue personnel search amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.
Gerald Herbert/AP
Education

Thousands of Florida Students Affected by Hurricane Michael Don't Know When They're Going Back to School


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Children who have suffered a disaster still need a place to continue learning. Attending school helps maintain a sense of normalcy amid disaster, but many students in Bay County, Florida, don’t have that option. You can join us in taking action on this issue here

Thousands of students can’t go back to school in Bay County, part of Florida’s panhandle where  Hurricane Michael hit Oct. 10, CNN reports.

Take Action: Call on US Government and Business Leaders to #FundEducation

Schools in Bay County are closed until further notice, but officials are meeting Monday morning to discuss how to get students back in the classroom as soon as possible. Steve Moss, vice chairman of Bay District School Board, said it could be weeks or months before they’re up and running.

“They still need educational services. They still need to learn,” Moss said of the 26,000 students affected by the third-strongest hurricane in US history, and strongest storm to hit the Gulf Coast to date. 

The Hurricane Michael death toll reached 18 as of Monday. Many Florida residents are still without food, and clean water and thousands may not get their electricity back for weeks. 

Moss said every school in the county has had some kind of damage, and many buildings only have their foundations left.  

Rebuilding communities after disasters isn’t an easy task. North Carolina is still in the process of recovering after Hurricane Florence struck the state five weeks ago on Sept. 14th., and several schools in flood-affected areas remain closed, according to NPR.

Read More: How Climate Change Made Hurricane Michael More Destructive

Moss told CNN he wants to make sure the situation doesn’t negatively impact his students’ graduation dates or academic progress.

Children aren’t the only ones affected when they can’t attend school, CNN pointed out. If parents don’t have child care, they end up missing work when school isn’t in session to look after their kids.

School also offers a safe haven for many students who rely on cafeterias for nutritional meals. For those whose homes were destroyed by the disaster and are currently living in shelters, school might be their only familiar environment. 

"We [have to] rebuild the kids and their emotional well-being," Britt Smith, principal of Jinks Middle School in Panama City, Bay County, said last week after seeing photos of his school’s gym, which had recently been renovated before being destroyed by the storm. 

Bay School District officials are considering having high schools that are in better shape share their campuses and split the school day with students who don’t have anywhere to go. Buses might transport students between the schools but, according to Moss, it’s an ambitious undertaking.

Moss said the district and the state weren’t financially prepared to handle a disaster of this scale. 

Not all schools in the panhandle area remain closed after Hurricane Michael. On Sunday night, Leon County District announced its schools would reopen with a generator on Monday, USA Today reports