Hurricane Irma’s chokehold on electrical power for the past few days will cost the Manatee School District plenty: $100,000 worth of unfrozen food in 12 Manatee public school freezers had to be hauled away by trucks Tuesday.
“All of it went to the dump,” Todd Henson, district director of maintenance operations and central distribution, said Tuesday. “The county landfill was a busy place Tuesday.”
Cleaning crews from non-shelter schools will be helping ones that were starting Wesnesday. It’s hard without power. It will be old-fashioned scrubbing. But that’s not the ideal situation with a job this big.
Todd Henson, director of maintenance operations, Manatee schools
Unlike a home freezer that can retain coldness for 48 hours, a school freezer is only good for eight to 10 hours, Henson added.
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Students are out of school all week so the district can clean up its 51 schools in the wake of the storm.
The School District of Manatee expects to spend $500,000 to $1 million in school repair, cleanup and restoration, including the frozen food, in the aftermath of Irma.
That’s a lot, but it could have been much worse, Henson noted.
“I think Sheriff Wells coined the statement about us dodging a bullet and that is true,” Henson said. “We feel for the folks in other counties. We dodged a huge bullet. We were spared.”
Henson leads inspection team
After a weather or any major event occurs that impacts all 51 Manatee schools, a response team is assembled to see what needs to be done.
Henson appointed a team of 12 Tuesday and, when they reported back to him with their checklists from each school, all were crammed with such things as water migration into classrooms, minor wind damage, including at portable classrooms, leaky ceilings, damaged electrical equipment and much more of that variety.
“Nothing major, all minor, but the most major thing is not having power,” district spokesman Mike Barber said. “That will make it difficult to do the cleaning work we need to do.”
The list of schools without power was down to 11 on Tuesday, Henson said.
Bayshore High lost two large electrical motors that run air-conditioning systems, Henson said.
“We had very little structural damage, if any,” Henson added.
Not everyone was a considerate guest
While the district opened its arms to the Manatee County community in an unprecedented fashion Thursday through Sunday, sheltering as many as 30,000 evacuees at 24 schools, it didn’t always get consideration back.
“We had things like security panels damaged on walls,” Henson said. “Why this happened, I don’t really know. Of course, we had never housed that many people in my tenure, which is 22 years.”
The amount of damage and cleanup created by evacuees was higher the more evacuees a shelter had, with Braden River and Manatee high schools leading in damage with more than 2,000 evacuees in each, Henson said.
“Cleaning crews from non-shelter schools will be helping ones that were starting Wednesday,” Henson said. “It’s hard without power. It will be old-fashioned scrubbing. But that’s not the ideal situation with a job this big.”