Hurricane Recovery Underway in Several Florida School Systems

In hard hit Charlotte County they'll have to rebuild 16 of 20 schools. Some school openings will be delayed weeks or longer, and this school year will be anything but normal for thousands of students.

Damages to Florida schools are still being assessed. In Charlotte, only four of 20 schools may be operational. Eleven counties face problems. The lieutenant governor says the first thing the state has done is remove registration requirements so students from damaged areas can attend classes elsewhere.

Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings says, "We are going to make sure that’s facilitated, especially people who have been dislocated for some period of time, may have family in another county and we are going to make sure that those children are able to go back to school."

The state is looking for alternative space, including renting office space or calling on the National Guard to help fast track some construction.

Jim Horne, Florida Education Commissioner, says, "The smaller rural counties lost a lot of portables. Of course we are trying to look at in how much inventory we can put in place there. Polk has taken a pretty good hit."

In the past week the state has identified 150 brand new portable classrooms that are in the state but have not yet been set up. The state says those will be moved to the affected areas.

Education officials face monumental tasks that include planning new transportation routes and replacing water damaged text books.

Jim Horne adds, "These students may have to travel a little further to go to school now than before, but to me my window is two weeks we have got to be up and going in two weeks."

The target for getting Charlotte County back in the classroom is August 31. What is clear is that the 2004 school year will be far from normal for many students. The Florida School Boards Association estimates Charley did more than $100 million in damage to schools across the state.