After sustaining widespread damage last year from Hurricane Michael, the Bay (Fla.) School District has seen student enrollment drop precipitously and may have to close some campuses.
The Panama City News Herald reports that attendance data shows a possible loss of up to 4,700 students since the devastating storm in October 2018. Enrollment before the storm was about 28,000.
Repairs needed to restore damaged facilities will cost $250 million to $300 million, says Superintendent Bill Husfelt.
The majority of closures are likely to occur at the elementary grade level. Husfelt says he does not plan to close any high schools.
“Our population has dropped almost 5,000 students and many of our schools are well under capacity,” the superintendent says. “Financially, we just can’t afford to keep all of our schools open at the low level some of them are at, so we’re going to have to make some decisions.”
Many facility adjustments have already occurred. Parker and Oscar Patterson elementary schools share Parker's campus, and Cedar Grove and Springfield elementary schools share Cedar Grove's campus. Rutherford High School’s campus now houses grades six through 12 to accommodate Everitt Middle School students.
The district, which has a $100 million coverage plan for wind damage, is now tasked with securing funding to fulfill all repair needs.
Over the next few weeks, the school board will mull over how to proceed with each campus. The board is scheduled to hold a workshop next week to begin the discussions.
“We felt like $100 million was ample coverage, and for ... years, it has been,” says Jim Loyed, chief financial officer for Bay District Schools. “This is a catastrophic storm that nobody really could have predicted, and I’m not sure it’s something that anybody would have insured against. We’re obviously going to look to the state for some assistance, whether is grants or loans or what have you. Quite frankly our capital projects every year will be dominated by hurricane rebuilding, hurricane renovations and things like that."