Bay District Schools' estimated cost of hurricane damage exceeds insurance cap

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Bay District Schools is facing millions of dollars in damage after the hurricane ripped apart some of its schools, but what do you do when the amount of damage outweighs the amount in your pocketbook?

"There's quite a few that we're working on to get them back online," Steve Moss, the Chair of the Bay District School Board, said.

Bay High School and Merritt Brown Middle School students were originally slated to return to their respective campuses Monday, January 14. Due to delays, that date has been pushed back to Tuesday, January 22.

Some campuses in our area are using modular classrooms as buildings are damaged.

Bay District Schools officials are estimating a little more than $250 million in damage.

Moss said, "We have a little over $100 million worth of property and casualty insurance, it'll take care of a lot of that, but that being said, there's still a large gap from what we were insured to what the estimated damages will be."

So what happens when you're left with a multi-million dollar gap?

"Until they've been here and they see it, they don't understand the gravity of this situation," State Senator George Gainer said.

The district has reached out to state and federal leaders about their situation, including Senator Gainer.

"Make it clear to them what our needs are as a district and try to quantify exactly what we need, not only money wise, but support wise from the state," Moss said.

Needs the district has noted in the past include repairs as well as flexibility in staffing and deadlines for testing.

Down the road, the board and Superintendent Bill Husfelt must decide which schools will remain open and which schools will close as the student population shifts to other schools.

Moss said, "To be efficient as we can as a school district, you simply cannot operate a school with 100 students zoned for that individual school."

Moss said state officials have been receptive to the district's needs, but he's not received as much feedback from the federal government.

Soon after the storm, the district hired a FEMA consultant to help the board navigate federal relief.

"We hired a FEMA consultant fairly soon after the hurricane hit because we reached out to other districts that had went through similar disasters and they stressed how critical it was to bring in someone that has a track record of working with FEMA," Moss said.

While hurricane victims are facing their own individual problems, the solution could come from the help of others.

Senator Gainer said, "Understand that our greatest asset is each other and as long as we try to look after each other here, we're going to be just fine."