Miami-Area Students Return to School, But Electricity Remains a Problem For Some

By Denisa R. Superville — September 18, 2017 2 min read
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Thousands of Florida students affected by Hurricane Irma returned to school on Monday, more than a week after the powerful storm knocked out power and caused flooding in large swaths of the state.

Some schools are still in the dark. In Miami-Dade, which opened on Monday, students at Richmond Heights Middle School were expected to spend the day at nearby Coral Reef High school because Richmond Heights did not have electricity, according to the Miami Herald.

Getting to school was expected to be a little bumpy, too. Some bus routes had to be changed to avoid streets still littered with debris and traffic lights that didn’t work, the Herald reported.

While some parents were happy that schools were reopening in Miami-Dade, others took issue with the superintendent’s decision, the Herald reported.

Despite the lingering impacts from the storm, district leaders decided to open in the hope that it could help students’ lives return to some semblance of normalcy.

In addition to Miami-Dade, which is the country’s fourth-largest district, other districts that reopened included Hillsborough County, based in Tampa; Orange County, based in Orlando; Palm Beach County, based in Palm Beach, and Broward County, based in Fort Lauderdale.

Most districts that shut down because of Hurricane Irma were expected to reopen this week, according to a tally of school districts on the Florida Department of Education’s website.

But challenges still lingered for some school systems. The Collier County district in Naples is hoping to reopen on Sept. 25. The district reported on Monday that only 45 of its 54 schools had power. The county still has a boil-water advisory, and sewage problems were causing back-ups in schools, and six schools were still being used as shelters. Twenty-nine other schools that served as shelters during the storm needed to be deep-cleaned, the district said. The district also said that it was concerned about students’ safety, with flooding still a problem in some areas.

In Lee County, officials are also hoping to open on Sept. 25. While some of the buildings sustained minor damage in the storm, several portable classrooms were destroyed, Superintendent Gregory Adkins said. The district will have to make provisions for those students, according to the News-Press.

Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, where Hurricane Irma made its first United States landfall on Sept. 10, is aiming for a Sept. 25 reopening date. The district’s staff is expected to report to work on Sept. 21 and 22, according to the Florida Keys News. County officials had restricted return to the Keys, but they have started to loosen those restrictions.

In the districts that have reopened, officials are taking steps to help students get ready for classes. Both Miami and Broward county schools are offering free breakfast and lunch to all students. Orange County, too, will offer free meals through Oct. 20, according to the district.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.