A Florida district whose schools were heavily damaged last year by Hurricane Michael plans to close, at least temporarily, three of its elementary campuses.
The Panama City News Herald reports that the Bay District School Board has voted to move forward with plans to "mothball" Springfield, Oscar Patterson and Oakland Terrace elementary schools because of a combination of hurricane damage and population loss.
The district says it will maintain the shuttered facilities so that they can be reopened if student enrollment rebounds.
Superintendent Bill Husfelt and district staff had recommended “mothballing” four schools, but the board decided in a 3-to-2 vote to keep Callaway Elementary open.
Advocates from Callaway cited increases in the school's enrollment, which they said has been growing each day and has reportedly surpassed 400, the “magic number” the district has deemed needed to have the school be able to cover operational costs.
Several city officials from Callaway spoke in favor of keeping the school open, they asserted that closing it would hinder the community’s ability to recover from the storm.
The Bay District is looking at repair and remediation costs of $230 million, after insurance, because of the October hurricane. District administrators also anticipate a loss in revenue because of a decreased property tax base and loss of state funding because of the drop in student enrollment.
The district says its enrollment had dropped by as much as 5,000 students after the storm. Before the hurricane, about 28,000 students attended Bay District schools.
In light of the board's vote, the district will advertise for 30 days the proposed temporary closure of the three schools, as well as proposed boundary changes for that campuses that remain open. A final vote on the closing plan is scheduled for next month.