BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Though Brunswick County facilities may have fared well, families with children in the school system may still be in need.
Damage from Hurricane Florence will cost the school system between $1.8 and $2 million, according to the schools’ spokesperson, Daniel Seamans. Between 19 schools and insurance coverage, the costs won’t weigh the system down too badly.
“We came out very lucky,” Seamans said. “The schools are in good shape.”
On Monday, Brunswick County Schools (BCS) announced its classrooms would remain closed until at least Oct. 5. With the earliest possible opening date of Oct. 8 – which has not yet been confirmed or announced – students will have been out of school nearly two times longer than they’ve been in school.
Relying on school meals
This amount of unplanned time out of school can put a strain on students who rely on breakfast and lunch at school, fifth grade Lincoln Elementary School teacher, Elise Barrett, said.
“The majority of our kids have free and reduced lunch and they depend on a consistent school schedule to eat,” Barrett said.
Between 80 and 85 percent of all Lincoln Elementary School students qualify for free and reduced lunch, according to 2016-2017 data provided by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
As a whole, six out of every 10 Brunswick County students qualify for free and reduced lunches. Since the storm hit, the school system has not yet organized a system to get in touch with families who may be in need.
“Brunswick Schools as a whole has not put something together yet that would be a districtwide thing,” Seamans said. “Right now the focus is getting the schools back in.”
Seamans directed any volunteers to provide time or supplies to Brunswick Family Assistance, a non-profit group that sets up shop every day from new locations.
In addition to missing meals, families may face other strains. Costly childcare options, or simply missing work while waiting on disaster funds to become available can place low-income families in a financial bind.
Identifying individual families’ needs is a top priority, Barrett said. She recently began organizing her own campaign that is working on creating a master list of families who need help.
“My school and some other schools in my area, we’ve been starting to make home visits,” Barrett said.”Going to homes, checking on kids, bringing them the food, conducting a survey; we’re talking to them and finding out their individual needs.”
With state lawmakers’ recent announcement that missed days will potentially be waived for teachers and students, Barrett said relaxing is not an option.
“Now that we have an extra week it’s just so critical,” Barrett said. “It’s just is overwhelming and I can’t imagine just sitting still right now.”
On Monday, Barrett said at least one hundred families attended an outreach project at Lincoln Elementary, where supplies and meals were made available. During the week ahead, Barrett plans to use information she’s logged about individual families to begin making the project more mobile through making house calls.
“Part of me doing this is continuing to be a teacher though we’re not in session,” she said.
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