Empty classrooms allow opportunity to speed up Hurricane Michael recovery

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — It’s been just over a month and a half since students were physically at school.

While the transition to distance learning has brought up a lot of challenges on students, parents, faculty and students, the unexpected break from campus is providing an opportunity to still get work done.

The District’s Facilities Department is now able to speed up some Hurricane Michael recovery projects and also start some new ones.

“We’ve started additional food service serving lines replacement jobs. We are finishing up some secure entry projects for Bay Base. Additonally, there’s quite a bit of interior repairs that we were not thinking we were going to be able to start until the summertime. We’ve got our construction manager that’s doing interior hurricane-related repairs. He’s expedited and going to bring in May 4 more schools for the board to approval to begin those interior repairs,” said Facilities Director, Lee Walters.

Walters says there are also more roof repair projects they’ll be able to get going.

“With roofing projects, a lot of what they were able to work on only at nights or weekends just so didn’t disrupt the learning environment, we’re now on those sites during the days as well. We’ve also got two more groups of roofing projects that will be coming up. Those have been expedited on the bidding too. That’ll be coming out in May.”

Any project they can put up for bid right now, Walters says they are presenting before the school board but he understands, the timeline for new projects may not be as easy to dictate due to the impacts of the coronavirus.

“We’re having to be flexible because we don’t know what our timeline is going to be for completion just due to the fact with there’s so much uncertainty with the supply chain,” Walters said.

However, for projects already underway, Walters says they may be able to finish them up to six months earlier than scheduled.

Even with the questions, Walters says this time away from campus is helping the district get ahead a lot of faster than they expected.

“I’ll be the first one out there jumping up and down saying alright we got it done. Anytime we can get further along, and get things back to normal and get the students and teachers especially back into their environment without having to worry about my construction workers and so forth, will allow the kids to be able to focus on what they need to focus on that much sooner,” Walters said.

Walters says they have multiple bids going before the School Board this Tuesday during their regular meeting.

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