SCCPSS Board of Education recaps Irma damage, cost

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Board of Education reviewed the damage and costs from Hurricane Irma at its meeting Wednesday.

According to the district's Hurricane Irma recap, SCCPSS estimates $340,114.57 in total preliminary costs for transportation, school nutrition, and repairs and replacements from the storm.

District site evaluations started on Sept. 11 and generated 464 storm-related work orders.

Irma damaged 71 trees, and workers replaced 668 ceiling tiles at schools across the district. Water leaks damaged ceiling tiles, sheetrock and stucco at  East Broad St. K-8 School, Charles Ellis Montessori, Gadsden Elementary, Georgetown K-8 School, Gould Elementary, Hesse K-8 School, Jenkins High School, Largo-Tibet Elementary, Massie Heritage Center, Mercer Middle School, Myers Middle School, Savannah Arts Academy, Southwest Elementary,Southwest Middle School, Spencer Elementary and Windsor Forest High.

Wind blew covers off of HVAC units at Hubert Middle School, damaging the circuit boards, and city sewer backed up into Heard Elementary.

"As a result of the wind, as a result of the rain, you saw that we lose those ceiling tiles," said Vanessa Kaigler, deputy superintendent and chief operations officer for SCCPSS. "You saw that we had some flooding. You saw that we had trees down. It makes it very difficult to go into a building and assess a building without power."

A majority of schools in the district had power and were operational by Sept. 12, but Largo-Tibet Elementary and Coastal Empire Montessori didn't have power restored until Sept. 15.

Crews restored power to Heard Elementary on Sept. 11, to May Howard Elementary on Sept. 12, to Beach High School, Brock Elementary, Charles Ellis Montessori, Massie Heritage Center, Oatland Island Wildlife Center, Pooler Elementary, Port Wentworth Elementary, Pulaski Elementary on Sept. 13, and to Haven Elementary, Hubert Middle School, Windsor Forest Elementary on Sept. 14.

Tree and debris removal, generator power, roof repairs, refrigerated vans, flooding remediation, ceiling tile repairs and heavy equipment cost the district an estimated $191, 554.

"It is a considerable amount, but when you look at the fact that we have 36,000 students, we have 55 buildings, so that number is comparable to the size of our school district," Kaigler said. "Looking on the outside and looking on the surface, 'Oh my gosh, the sun is shining, why can't we go back to school? We need buses back in, we need drivers back in. We need school nutrition employees back in, so we have to have staff in order to operate. We have to have our assets back. We have to have power in order to go in and assess and make those repairs as quickly as we could."

SCCPSS lost an estimated $72,560.57 in refrigerated and frozen foods, with milk spoilage costing $6,728.89 alone.

"We were working very diligently to minimize that cost, and I think by having those refrigerated trucks, by having those generators in place, by working very diligently to make sure we secured those buildings, I think that's where we saw that reduction in loss," Kaigler said.

District transportation employees worked almost 7,544 hours before, during and after the storm transporting evacuees to and from the Savannah Civic Center, then, cleaning and preparing the buses for students.

Transportation cost the district $76,000, with $26,000 spent on fuel, generators and equipment, $40,000 on labor and $10,000 on driver meals.

Students missed six days of school because of the storm, but will only make up three. Those days will be Monday, Oct. 9, Nov. 20, and Nov. 21.

After Hurricane Matthew, SCCPSS applied for $892,297.11 in FEMA reimbursements, and received $787,915.93, meaning the district is still waiting to get  $104,381.18 from FEMA from last year.

"We're still in the process of having funds returned to us from FEMA, so we have not closed out from Matthew, and now we're initiating the FEMA process for reimbursements for Irma," Kaigler said.

She thinks lessons learned from Matthew, like additional generators and refrigerated vans, helped reduce loss and save money.

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