PANAMA CITY — The word of the day is hope.
It will be weeks, not months, until Bay County’s children are able to return to school after being devastated by Hurricane Michael on Wednesday, according to Bill Husfelt, Superintendent of Bay District Schools.
On Saturday, administrators from schools spanning all over the county met in Mosley High School’s Media Center to discuss plans for getting students back to school and for attending to students currently living in shelters, which many administrators have been helping to run since they opened.
“I would encourage people to just trust us, that we’re going to take care of the kids as quickly as we can and make sure that we get them in schools and to the next grade. That’s our main focus right now,” he said. “Help families get back to some normalcy as quickly as possible.”
According to Husfelt, the district will begin looking at schools on Monday to determine which campuses are still usable. So far, the district knows that most schools situated in Panama City Beach sustained minimal damage or are damage free. Some schools in town only have damage to one or two building, leaving the rest of campus in working order.
Once the district has a better idea of infrastructure status, they will begin creating schedules to best utilize the schools for all students.
To accomplish this, Husfelt said they are thinking outside of the box. One possibility in consideration is arranging two schools to utilize one campus by having a morning school and an afternoon school. He has already asked principals to team up and take a look at how a split schedule could operate.
“That’s not that unusual,” said Husfelt. “It happens in a lot of places, especially in emergency situations like this.”
Husfelt says he is trying to impact families as little as possible. Employees of Bay District Schools will continue to be paid and there are no plans to take away summer break from students for more than a week to ten days to make up for this time away. He also says high school college preparatory programs like AICE and IB will not be endangered.
Husfelt says he does anticipate more schools to be opened as shelters, but those decisions will be made by EOC. Counseling and medical care is on the way to shelters.
“It’s traumatic what we’ve been through but we’re going to overcome it and we’ll get school started up as quickly as possible,” he said.
Husfelt plans to send questions to both Florida governor candidates to see their plans for best serving our students as they recover from this devastation.
To outside entities looking to help, ice, water, gas, food, and baby diapers are needed. To donate, contact the EOC or the Salvation Army.
"If you are looking to donate but aren't sure what to send," Husfelt said, “As a guide, if you were going camping, what would you take with you?”