Bay District students return to school in Hurricane Michael’s shadow

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — They can still see the damage, to their homes, their schools and their lives but on Monday they returned to class anyway.

Some of them were nervous, others were filled with joy.

Monday was the first day of school for every school district in The Panhandle.

Andra Phillips, the new principal of Callaway Elementary School, said she was excited to work with all of the new pupils.

“It was wonderful to see all the students return and their families. It was exciting to see all the things they want to do here and share with us about what they did over the summer. You spend the entire summer planning for a moment like this and now it’s here,” said Phillips.

Hurricane Michael wasn’t the only incident crowding out the usual joy that comes with the first day of school. Over the summer staff members participated in active shooter training and some teachers are now certified to carry firearms on campus as part of the statewide guardian program.

Tommy Ford, The Sheriff of Bay County, said student safety is the department’s number one priority.

“Our number one priority is keeping our kids safe in school. We’ve got school resource deputies from the sheriff’s office in every middle and high school and the district has school resource officers in every elementary school,” Ford said.

Superintendent Bill Husfelt said this is a balancing act.

“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 we have and how much security can we have and can you do them both at the same time. We think our schools understand that and we think parents understand the importance of both of those as well,” said Husfelt.

Next for the school district will be the groundbreaking for Jenks Middle Schools’ brand new gym as the district continues to make steps toward rebuilding.

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