Hurricane Michael still lingers on district's mind on first day of new school year

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - When Bay District Schools students and faculty entered their schools this time last year, they had no idea Hurricane Michael would devastate our area, causing one of the most hectic school years our district's ever seen.

Bay District Schools had its first day of school Monday and faculty want to focus on a fresh start after Hurricane Michael. (Google)

Now, they're back in school again, but 10 months and two days later, Hurricane Michael is still on everyone's minds.

Teachers and students arrived at their schools Monday ready for a fresh start after a chaotic 2018/2019 school year.

"We want the kids to have fun, we want them to enjoy the school year, and so, we have a balancing act between how much fun can you have and how much security can you have and can we do them both at the same time," said Superintendent Bill Husfelt.

"I think they [students] need school for their normalcy as much as the teachers needed to come back for normalcy," said a math interventionist at Jinks Middle School, Lori Clutch.

Despite the new year, the effects of Hurricane Michael can still be seen in area schools.

"We are, like everybody else, on the list for repairs. We don't have a gym, that's our biggest disadvantage, unfortunately, the provisions that are being made on that end will not come to fruition until October, so we're just kind of making the best of it for now," said Jinks Middle School Principal Blythe Carpenter.

Although there is still damage, Superintendent Husfelt wants parents to know their children are in good hands.

"We're not letting any students back into any buildings where we feel it's unsafe," said Husfelt.

Faculty say they saw some faces Monday they hadn't seen in 10 months.

"There were some familiar faces from last year that were with us prior to the hurricane that had to be relocated last year after the hurricane and they were able to come back this year, which is great to see them, it's good to know that there's some normalcy being restored and they're coming back to their homes," said Carpenter.

While there have been changes in the last year, district officials say they're ready to take those in stride.

"I think that working around construction, I think once we know at the end of this week where we are with student population and whether we've gained or lost, we'll look at what schools might need to be reopened or unfortunately what schools we might need to close in a year," said Husfelt.

They also say they want to put Hurricane Michael behind them as much as possible.

"I think everybody's just looking forward to putting the past in the past and let's focus on the good that's in front of us, we've made a lot of progress across the district and in our county and city," said Carpenter.

Superintendent Husfelt also said they have plenty of mental health counselors in place for any concerns students or parents may have regarding Hurricane Michael.

Copyright 2019 WJHG. All rights reserved.