Bay District Schools' projects may be re-prioritized following Hurricane Michael

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Before Hurricane Michael, Bay District Schools had plans to make improvements.

"Our focus really has for the last, I believe 54, 54-55 days has been focused on strictly storm recovery," Lee Walters, Director of Facilities for Bay District Schools, said.

Following the storm, it's clear priorities have changed.

"Some of the early half-cent projects might be re-prioritized just because, well, it's the obvious: we've got to have a roof on a building before we can make some of the interior upgrades we had hoped to make," Walters said.

Some projects would be funded by the half-cent sales tax, while others, like the new elementary school slated to come to Panama City Beach, would be a bond initiative and not a local tax.

"Obviously, it doesn't look we're going to start the new school at the beach in January, but still got the drawings on my desk," Walters said.

The beach school was originally planned to be completed in 2020.

"Once we know enrollment numbers and we'll have to revise that schedule, but hopefully that will still come to fruition in the near future as well," Walters said.

On the other side of the Hathaway Bridge, plans for a fine arts center and STEM building at Bay High School are still in place.

Before those get finished, more immediate needs have to be met.

"We've got the Merritt Brown reconstruction, if you will, Bay High, and Rutherford," Walters said.

Those projects are expected to be underway during winter break.

Walters said, "Our focus is getting kids back into school as quickly as possible and they're back, but get them back in their home locations."