Beach Elementary

By: Jason Davis
By: Jason Davis

Hurricane Katrina has left many young evacuees without a place to live or get an education, but locally many schools have decided to enroll these displaced students in classes.

One Bay County school is trying to make the lives of young evacuees as normal as possible.

It's back to school part two in Bay County, and Hutchison Beach Elementary welcomed almost 30 new students Tuesday morning.

Families displaced from their homes because of Hurricane Katrina will be in the Panhandle for awhile, and so will their children.

Denise Kelly, Beach Elementary Principal, says, "We knew that we would be getting some of them. The degree that they're coming in, we didn't know how many to expect; they're still coming."

Students like five-year-old Timmy Kihneman from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi are excited to be back in school and to have theirs minds off of Katrina.

"I can't imagine having a child in a shelter for 24 hours a day with nothing to do. At least they're getting an education and they're getting structured activities."

Timmy's grandmother says when the family evacuated Mississippi, they thought it would only take two days for them to go home, but the generosity of the Panhandle has made things a little easier

Susan Kihneman says, "Everybody that we've been in contact with has been fantastic. We just can't believe how nice everybody's been to us."

School officials are allowing children to enroll without immunization records and providing them with a free lunch, but school supplies are still a need.

"What we're finding is most of them were expecting to return home, but they found themselves now needing additional supplies because they didn't pack expecting to not come back to their homes."

Just like no one expected that back to school would come twice in one school year.

In addition to opening their doors to displaced students Hutchison Beach Elementary has been helping out families with clothing and gas vouchers. There are more than 300,000 displaced students from the storm.


8195 Front Beach Road Panama City Beach, FL 32407 Station: 850-234-7777 News: 850-230-5221 Fax: 850-233-6647
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