After Vero Beach’s brush with Hurricane Dorian, students and teachers have resumed their normal school routines.
Indian River School District has plans in place to help students and staff deal with stressful events like hurricanes, said Cindy Emerson, Principal of Vero Beach Elementary, but to have classes disrupted for most of week so early in the school year has an impact.
“We always try to be proactive to help students understand what’s going on,” Emerson said. “We talk to them about what everyone is doing to protect them, including meteorologists, government workers, parents and schools. We want to help them remain calm.”
When students returned to school on Friday, after being out for six days over Labor Day weekend and during the storm, teachers answered students’ questions and listened to concerns, Emerson said. Students were also encouraged to talk with school counselors and other staff.
“On Monday of this week, we started the day with teachers reading books to students that stressed being thankful,” Emerson said. “Students were then asked to write a letter thanking someone who helped them during the hurricane.
“One student wrote a letter to Jon Teske (Assistant Superintendent of operations) for making the school buildings safe. Another second grader wrote a letter to his cat because he said his cat curled up with him and made him feel safe during the hurricane.”
School staff members returned to schools on Wednesday, Sept. 4 to prepare for the return of students two days later.
Schools that had been used as storm shelters, including for pets in one case, had to be cleaned up and school buildings had to be inspected for damage and safety concerns.
“We did not sustain any major damages as a result of Hurricane Dorian other than the normal tree limbs, yard clean up, and fencing impacted by the storm,” said Interim Superintendent Susan Moxley. “We are still assessing all roofs and will continue to do so over the next several days.”
Most costs associated with the storm involved pre- and post-storm shelters and clean up, Moxley said. School officials do not yet have a final cost estimate.
Hundreds of Indian River Country residents flocked to school buildings that were used as makeshift shelters. Moxley praised the dozens of school and community volunteers who helped prepare the shelters ahead of time and clean up after the storm passed.
“The school and community teams that worked shelters were amazing,” Moxley said. “They were dedicated to serving the community residents who needed to utilize the shelters during the storm.
“The County’s Emergency Operations Center did an outstanding job coordinating the efforts from all agencies mobilized during these types of weather events.”
County administrator Jason Brown said 700 people took shelter in schools during the storm.
It’s not yet clear if students will have to make up any days missed during the hurricane, Moxley said. The district already has two emergency storm days set in their calendar year for such an event, so students officially only missed one school day, since Monday, Sept. 2 was a holiday.
“I am hopeful that we will not have any more hurricanes this season,” Moxley said.