Life after Hurricane Michael hasn’t been easy, especially for Bay District students and staff.
The storm caused significant damage to the schools, leaving students out of school for a month while the district developed a plan. The plan of action was to create split schedules, moving students from damaged campuses to campuses that didn’t suffer as much damage. The high school students would attend class from 7-12 p.m. while middle school students would attend class from 1-6 p.m.
Classes were cut by ten minutes in order to accommodate everyone on campus.
While almost every teenager is happy for a day off school here and there, a month was just too long. Students said they looked forward to returning to school, whether it was their campus or not.
“It’s cool to kind of have an escape, almost,” said Mosley High School Senior, Matthew Stephenson. For many students, returning to school was an escape from the damage caused by Hurricane Michael. While the damage was still ever present, the friends and teachers that they hadn’t seen since before the storm helped restore a sense of normalcy.
It’s not the school year anyone expected. For senior Matthew Stephenson, Hurricane Michael cut his final year playing football for the Mosley Dolphins short. “This is my senior year. You know, it’s my last season and I wanted to play football. We got to finish it out, but didn’t get the outcome we would have liked so… it is what it is,” he said.
Even though it’s not the year they asked for, students and staff are making the most of the extra time in the afternoons. “Some of the kids have been able to go work and get jobs and help their families and for myself, I’ve been able to take care of things,” said Mosley High School 11th Grade English Teacher, Missy Guynn.
Guynn is back in the classroom and said she only lost about 15 of her own students. She said she’s happy to be back, but the work that exists after school is always on her mind.
“There was so much that we had to deal with personally so you’re thinking the whole time, I’m trying to present the kids the content and we’re writing and we’re reading but at the same time, I’m having to think okay I need to call the insurance adjuster when I leave. I have to check on my dog who has to be boarded up right now,” said Guynn.
After the storm, no one really knew what was going to happen next in their own lives but district employees said they were kept informed about their jobs. Guynn said the district was in constant communication with them and made the process of moving forward a little easier.
“They let us know that they were paying us during this time, so there was a degree of peace of mind knowing that our district was working for us,” said Guynn. They were informed of the plan for split schedule. At first, they weren’t sure how it was going to work, but students and staff had faith.
Now that students have gone almost three months on the split schedules, they don’t want to give them up. “If it gets the job done with what we’re doing now, why can’t we just keep it? The more time in the afternoon allows teachers to do whatever they need to do with their homes, it allows my friends to get jobs to help put up their families at the beach, and it helps us get homework and stuff around the house done early,” said Stephenson.
Mosley high school split a campus with Merritt Brown Middle school but with schedules returning to normal schedules, the Merritt Brown students will soon head back to their campus, but not the main campus.
The students will be in portables when they return to the schools. Mosley senior, Matthew Kelley, said he wants the students to stay on their campus, rather than going back to the portables. “I just believe it’s the right thing to do. If we can share our campus and help those kids out, it should be what we’re doing,” said Kelley.
Callaway was devastated by the storm, but Callaway elementary didn’t suffer too much damage, however, was still hit. “We had three rooms that were impacted so badly that we couldn’t even use the room,” said Callaway Elementary Principal, Tim Keiffer.
Keiffer’s school took in 225 students from Tyndall elementary students. They did the best they could to accommodate the children during this tough time. They used a team teaching model which put a Callaway teacher and a Tyndall teacher in each classroom so all the students had a familiar face teaching them every day.
“We’re trying to give them some normal element of their daily life and school is a big part of their life. We just try to welcome them and show that we’re here for them and they were just as much a part of this campus as the Callaway students,” said Keiffer.
Now, the Tyndall students are back on their regular campus, but Principal Keiffer said he won’t forget the kids and staff who were apart of their family for a month. “It’s very relieving to me to know that we can provide a service to the student as well as the faculty because Michael was such a devastating storm,” he said.
Split schedules followed a very difficult time, but students and staff said they enjoyed them. However, administrators are ready to get things back to normal. “I’m really happy with the way that things have been put back together. I’m really looking forward to getting back over here, but the kids have done well,” said Bay High School Principal, Billy May.
“Our schools will be better than ever and we’re going to be okay,” said Merritt Brown Middle School Principal, Charlotte Marshall, Merritt Brown Principal.
To see a tour of Merritt Brown under construction click here.
To see a tour of Bay High under construction click here.