- Some Denver-area school districts are struggling to obtain the appropriate property insurance coverage since a major hailstorm hit suburbs west of the Colorado city in 2017, causing $12 million in damage to Jeffco Public Schools alone, Chalkbeat reports.
- Jeffco now has 14 insurance policies, but the district only was able to get $150 million in limits as compared with $200 million for previous property coverage.
- Jeffco and other area districts are looking at other insurance options, including self-insurance, boosting reserves and spending more on mitigation efforts such as stronger and better-maintained roofs and providing roofs over school bus parking lots.
While school safety planning is often focused on preparing for active shooter scenarios, natural disasters occur more frequently and can have a devastating impact on a district’s ability to meet students' educational needs. Recent natural disasters have had a major financial impact on state budgets and insurance costs have skyrocketed in response to disasters, so district leaders need to take a hard look at how weather-related issues could affect their schools.
Examining insurance options is a logical step, but districts also need to find out what they can expect from their local and state governments in times of natural disaster. Some states have “rainy day” funds and many are increasing their savings as the economy booms. However, the way “rainy day” funds are dispensed is not always defined, so getting a clear commitment from lawmakers can help districts better plan for how much insurance they need.
Other insurance alternatives, including self-insurance, may work for some districts. Self-insured Schools of California, for instance, is a community of self-insured schools.
As school districts plan for natural disasters, they need to look at several factors, including what type of natural disasters are most likely to occur in their areas. Student safety is a priority in planning, so schools need clear plans about dismissing classes and about drilling students and staff to prepare for a disaster. They also need to develop plans for how to respond after a natural disaster occurs.
Hazard mitigation should be another top concern. The better prepared a school is for natural disasters, the less the impact will be in terms of the cost to repair damage, but also of the downtime a school will suffer that can affect students' academic performance. FEMA has recommendations and can also sometimes help with funding for future mitigation efforts.