- After Hurricane Michael devastated parts of the Florida Panhandle last week, schools partially or completely ruined by the storm are trying to figure out how to resume classes, CNN reports.
- The region's Bay District Schools, which has some 26,000 students, closed many of its schools until further notice. Officials say high school seniors will be able to graduate, and other students won't get held back a grade, but with some buildings barely standing, it could take months or years to repair the damage.
- One plan the district is considering is splitting buildings among schools. Using a structure that survived the storm, one school would hold classes in the morning, and another would do so in the afternoon. But while coordinating transportation and finding funding might be difficult, officials agree it's vital to get students back to school.
Natural disasters are uncontrollable and unpredictable, and when severe, they can have a huge impact on affected areas. Students and their families can face severe emotional and financial burdens in the aftermath of a storm, and in the case of Hurricane Michael — which has shattered records due to its immense strength and high-speed winds — some families and school districts have nearly nothing left. They have to start over. And on top of the already existent financial and emotional stressors that these communities face, a ravaging event like this can leave people feeling utterly hopeless or without resources to improve their situations.
Significant time spent out of school makes students more susceptible to falling behind. Students in low-income families also rely on school-provided meals to have access to nutritious options, but when school is closed, these meals aren't available. Psychologically, there are also consequences. In the worst cases, such disasters can cause students to experience overwhelming feelings of sadness or despair to know that their house or possessions were destroyed. For some students, these feelings of loss or confusion, or even a state of shock, can make it difficult to move forward and get back into a routine. That could mean difficulty focusing in the classroom, inability to sleep or a lack of motivation to do their work.
These kinds of events also bring with them a whirlwind of financial problems. When schools are closed, it's not just students who suffer the effects. If students aren't in school, parents have to stay home from work or find child-care arrangements.
While school leaders can reach out to community organizations that can provide support and comfort to families, they also play an important role in providing updated communication to staff members and families. Schools and communities in these areas, while dealing with the devastation, must rely on communication in determining the next plan forward and making it a priority to get students in classrooms — or some type of learning environment — quickly and effectively. When technology is working again and power lines are restored, this equipment can help bring education materials to any safe place in which students can learn. And in learning from these kinds of events, consulting local emergency management departments and law enforcement can help school officials get pointers on how they can best prepare for a natural disaster.