Duval schools will open Monday with minimal damages or signs of Hurricane Irma’s impact, said interim superintendent Patricia Willis.
All schools have power and most have little to no roof damage, she said. There was no dollar estimate for damages or extra personnel cost, but Willis said the district will apply for reimbursement with FEMA or the state.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead,” Willis said. “The first thing is to get students back to where they feel comfortable and there’s some sense of normalcy returned to their lives. That’s our goal.”
Hendricks Avenue Elementary did get water inside many classrooms, but that was likely due to the rain getting in through vents, said Don Nelson, assistant superintendent in charge of building operations.
“We had some rain intrusion, but no flooding,” he said. “Some windows were blown out. When you have blowing rain … it comes into the air conditioning vents and the other vents.”
Principals and administrators are reporting for work Friday and will give final readiness reports to the district, Willis said. Many of them worked long shifts during and after the storm at shelter schools and will receive emergency pay for hours worked beyond their usual shifts, she said.
Ten Duval schools were used as shelters, but have since been cleaned and disinfected, Nelson said. Some still have cots in them, but they’re being removed.
“We want it to be the best possible learning environment for our students,” she said, adding there will be crisis teams from the district sent to help certain students and families displaced by the storm.
Willis said district officials switched their planned opening date from Thursday to Monday because of staffing issues rather than building readiness issues.
“About 30 percent of our teachers and staff had to evacuate homes,” she said, adding many were still trying to get back or repair their homes.
Chartwells, which runs Duval’s cafeterias, reported 25 percent of its staff was not ready and had some equipment problems after the storm, Willis said.
Also, one of the four busing companies Duval uses for transportation said 40 percent of its staff was still out.
Most bus routes in Duval are cleared of debris, but some flooded or still unsafe drop-off and pick-up points may need to be temporarily changed, Nelson said. The district will notify parents Friday of any route changes.
For instance, some routes in the Browns Creek area will have to change temporarily because of flooding. Elsewhere, such as along Mandarin Road, downed trees are being removed, so it’s likely buses will continue transporting students from there, Nelson said.
“There are still some areas where trees and wires are down, and there are safety concerns,” Willis said.
Chartwells lost quite a bit of food, Nelson said.
The service will likely bear that cost, Willis said, because Duval Schools only reimburses it for meals sold to students.
Some district systems still are not working, including some internet-based functions, Willis said.
Most Northeast Florida public schools closed for the entire week, including Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Baker and Putnam counties. Nassau County officials said public schools would remain closed through Thursday.
With so much lost time, it’s unclear how many make-up days schools will need to use.
Willis said state officials expect to send recommendations to districts soon, but schools could make up lost time by adding hours to their days rather than days to their schedules.
Duval had five “weather days” factored into its regular school year schedule. Willis said it is unclear whether any or all of them will be used up or whether the school year will need to be extended further into June.
SLIDESHOWS: IRMA'S AFTERMATH
Edward Waters College and all Keiser University campuses have already reopened. The University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville resumed Thursday. Jacksonville University and St. Johns River State College reopen Monday.
For private schools, parents and students should call ahead or check their websites if they’ve not been notified.
Denise Smith Amos: (904) 359-4083