Schools react to storm's impact

Published 2:12 pm Monday, September 5, 2005

By By Janet Little Cooper
Due to the widespread impact of Hurricane Katrina, school officials in Escambia County AL and FL are doing a little arithmetic of their own. Both county school boards have had to organize a strategy for dealing with the gas shortages and the possible influx of refugee students.
Mobile and Baldwin County schools have not been able to resume classes due to a lack of fuel. Buck Powell, Escambia County School Board Superintendent sees no immediate effect. " We have storage tanks that we are able at this time to keep supplied. Those tanks will cover a weeks worth of school." According to Powell, people must keep in mind that Baldwin and Mobile schools burn more fuel than Escambia. "I have talked with Superintendents all over the state and everyone seems to be okay. We are not where we would like to be, but we are okay for now." replied Powell.
Five years ago, Powell made the call to convert buses from gas to diesel. "We are trying to keep things running as close to normal as possible. Our children have been through Ivan and Dennis and we just don't need to put them through that again." added Powell. Escambia County FL school district is fine at present. "We have a two week supply of diesel on hand and a two month supply of gas. 1.3 million gallons were just delivered to the Port of Pensacola and we will get a share of that as well" said Ronnie Arnold, Associate Superintendent of Schools .
The Governors of Alabama and Florida, Bob Riley and Jeb Bush, have signed proclamations allowing students displaced by Katrina to enroll in the states schools with no questions asked. " We would welcome them with open arms", said Powell. Local AL schools have received no children from the storm at this point. "If we do see an influx of kids, depending on the number, we would also be willing to hire teachers from the affected schools." Powell added that obviously teachers would be looking for work as a direct impact of the storm as well.
At this time, eighty-nine displaced students from LA and MS are currently enrolled in Escambia County, FL schools. Of the eighty-nine enrolled, sixty-six are of elementary age, eleven middle, and twelve high. Approximately forty-five more children of school age taking shelter at the Pensacola Civic Center and were moved to the old Molino Elementary School. Children placed in at the Molino shelter will attend Molino Park Elementary, Ernest Ward Middle, and Northview High.
According to Ronnie Arnold, Associate Superintendent of Schools said that guidance counselors and other personnel from those schools would visit the shelter over the weekend to register the children. The school district will make bus transportation available.
Arnold went on to add that it is possible for some families sheltered at Molino to be adopted by area families and housed in private residences. The children then, of course, would attend schools for which the residences are zoned. More families may seek shelter in Molino in the coming days.

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