The last few weeks have been tough for us here in Florida. Hurricanes are a real reminder of just how fragile we are. It takes no pity, ripping us from our homes, neighborhoods, routines, livelihoods and schools.
As soon as winds leave we all start chasing an elusive sense of normalcy. But, almost nothing signals a return to normal as much as taking our kids back to school. Truth is what happens between the time we all batten down and when our babies return to the classroom often goes unseen. We sometimes forget that teachers are parents too, and schools never really close.
It takes a huge village to get through a storm. But, what does that look like through the lens of a teacher? A principal? A parent? Or, a school board member?
I wanted to know, so I started by asking a school board member, Patti Good, who represents District 2 for the past 7 years, and was an administrator for over 23 years prior. The board holds ultimate responsibility for the governance of the entire district.
Patti, tell us about the last 2 weeks?
Immediately before, during and after the storm we have had to transition the district from an educational institution to a hurricane shelter and recovery entity. We opened up 28 of our schools as shelters for more than 13,000 people who we fed three meals a day and took care of their basic needs. We are now transforming ourselves back to teaching and learning and look forward to seeing our teachers and students back in the classroom.
What are you worried about going back to school?
As a District we will need to show great compassion to both our students and our employees. Many were adversely impacted by the storm and may still be overcoming great challenges. At the same time, I believe we will need to set an appropriate level of expectations. We can expect to see the need to reset technology, air conditioning systems that have to be recalibrated, classrooms that may have to be rearranged as facility issues are being fixed. Our District may also experience the arrival of new students from other districts, and we may have staff who are unable to return to work.
Are you worried about the loss of class time?
We are striving to return to a state of normalcy as quickly as possible. Our students have missed seven days of school. We cannot afford for them to lose any more instructional time. Our academics department and school staff will be working to recover and make up any lost ground. Our students’ futures depend on it.
In some ways this is like a restart of the school year but with some additional challenges. For example, we know that students and families are still struggling without electrical power, so we are offering free breakfast and free lunch for every student for the next several weeks.
Superintendent Runcie and District staff did an outstanding job to prepare our facilities for the storm and ensure the schools were ready to open after the storm. As a School Board Member, I am proud of our District’s efforts and I am certain we will review all aspects of our operations to ensure we are always prepared to meet our students’ needs regardless of the challenges we face as a community.