Hurricane victims make Leon County schools their new home

Leon County Superintendent, Rocky Hanna, and two assistant superintendents held a press conference about incoming students.
Photo submitted by Shay Simon.

Leon County students returned to school and their normal routines on Monday after an unexpected four days off because of Hurricane Michael. As Preston Harris walked his daughter to school, he reflected on the days his family spent without power.

"It was good and bad because I got to spend a lot more time with my kids. But with the lights being out, I wasn't able to cook for them like I always do," Harris said. "But, we made it through and we're happy."

A lot of families are facing a different reality. As of Tuesday, 46 students have relocated to Leon County Schools: 15 students from Bay County, four from Calhoun County and another four from Jackson County.

Superintendent, Rocky Hanna says Leon County is accepting those students with open arms after all they've endured.

"Some of the kids lost their world, their neighborhood, their friends, their bikes, their everything. We are going to have to be very sensitive to that as we are welcoming them in," Hanna said.

With nearly 50  new students in two days, Hanna said "it’s hard to get a gauge on how many we can expect over the next month."

"We anticipate more will come in and as word gets out and people start trying to figure out the next step for their lives … it's going to take a long time to put these communities back together."

As a result of the hurricane and the influx of students, Hanna says two problems could arise: classroom size and teacher availability.

LCS entered the 2018-2019 school year with a need for more teachers and as more students enroll that problem could resurface.

“We are having a tough time finding teachers. We had a tough time just starting school,”  Hanna said.

“So to go back out now in October or November and hire teachers (could be tough), unless teachers from the devastated counties end up over here.”

Despite these possible problems, LCS is ready and willing to help. Hanna even suggested that LCS could potentially adopt schools that are closed because of Hurricane Michael.

As a parent, Preston Harris appreciates that LCS is capable of helping kids in need.

"I think it’s good that the kids are able to get back around kids and loving people and someone can give something back to them and show them that it's not all over."

LCS is still evaluating if and when students will make up the four days of school.