PANAMA CITY, Fl. (WMBB) – Monday marked the official beginning of the 2023-24 academic year for Panama City’s Bay Haven and North Bay Haven Charter Academies.

“It’s always a mix of excitement and some nervousness. I think parents… I’m a parent as well, are a little excited to get kids back to school. So just a good mixture,” said Brittany Lewis, Principal at Bay Haven.

Their year opens just three days before local public schools begin instruction, opting to start early and give teachers extra time off during the holidays.

The schools opened their doors fully staffed, a rare sight as schools are reeling nationwide from teacher shortages.

Chief Education Officer Larry Bollinger touted better wages and benefits are key reasons for their staffing.

“We have a very heavy recruiting initiative campaign that we do, and we try to offer the best benefits that we can,” said Bollinger. The schools also recruit spouses of military members serving at Tyndall Air Force Base.

Bollinger also noted the workforce’s volatility, saying “We’re full and we’re happy, but at any one time, we could end up with a shortage.”

Monday also welcomed in excessive heat warnings, which the schools carefully monitor to ensure student safety.

“There’s an index, an index that we have to go by to make sure that the heat index is not at such a point where it’s going to be an endangerment to the students,” noted Bollinger.

Last week, Bay Haven’s football team was forced to practice indoors due to the heat.