- Several Florida and North Carolina schools are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricanes Florence and Michael and are discovering the high cost of school repair and replacement, some of which is not covered by insurance, Education Week reports.
- Situations such as this are reasons schools need a healthy fund balance. That way, they'd have money on hand to stabilize schools after hurricanes and mitigate further damage from mold, as well as to begin initiating repairs while insurance and FEMA payments are processed — an effort that often takes months.
- Schools also often suffer financially from hurricanes because damage to surrounding homes and businesses may cause a significant number of students to leave a district, leading to a long-term effect on school population that impacts state and federal funding.
Hurricanes are one of the most devasting disasters district leaders can face, because they impact so many aspects of school life. Initially, districts need to find ways to dry out the school to prevent further damage. Then, they need to initiate repairs, which often take place while funding is uncertain. Even when a plan is in place, repairs may face delays, as hurricanes typically affect large areas that don't have enough workers and supplies to meet the construction needs. FEMA funds also take months or years to negotiate and get, which can further slow the process.
Aside from the short-term financial aspects, there are other consequences that affect school recovery. Many students are displaced or homeless, causing an increased cost in transporting those students from neighboring counties under the McKinney-Vento Act. Student populations are often reduced, a factor that may affect district income for years to come. Oftentimes, there's also an increase in the need for mental health services to help students deal with the trauma of the disasters and its impacts on daily life.
Some students miss weeks of school following a hurricane because of flood waters or structural damage that inhibits need schools to be in sufficient condition. In North Carolina, the state is considering waiving some required school days and tests because of the impact of Hurricane Florence. However, the loss of instruction is something that can affect students for months or years to come.
Districts can do nothing to prevent hurricanes from happening, but considering the enormous impacts, they must do everything they can to prepare financially and academically for the storms that might arrive.