A rat. A hedgehog. A squirrel. Many birds. A rooster.
Those were among the 4,000 animals, mostly dogs and cats, that were sheltered in 24 Manatee schools during Hurricane Irma, according to Diana Greene, superintendent of Manatee Schools.
Oh, and 30,000 humans slept close by their pets.
To say the least, and with all due respect to both the animals and humans who can’t help being carriers of germs, it’s no wonder that the School District of Manatee County is calling it a “huge challenge” to try to get all 51 of its schools cleaned and ready for Monday’s reopening of school.
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We fared pretty good as a district. What we are finding is that portable classrooms had some roof damage. We had some roof leaks. We had some stadium light issues because of high winds and we are bringing engineers back to check on that and we had some electrical components fail due to power outages and fluctuations.
Todd Henson, maintenance and warehouse director for Manatee schools
All 51 schools suffered some damage during Hurricane Irma, although the district was spared severe structural damage.
On Wednesday, Greene took journalists on a tour of Virgil Mills Elementary School, one of the 24 schools that had served as a shelter, and where she greeted dozens of workers scrubbing walls and windows, mopping tile floors and, most interestingly, using several types of special heavy duty carpet cleaning machines, one of which uses nearly Irma strength powerful suction to pull out dirt and one that uses extremely hot steam to clean and sanitize.
“We have this special equipment that will take care of any contaminants in the carpet,” said Todd Henson, the district’s director of maintenance and warehousing. “The contaminants will be extracted with the machines.”
What makes the challenge even more challenging is that Mills was using the “Ninja” carpet cleaner on generator power Wednesday.
Three schools — Able, Myakka City and Oneco elementary — still did not have power Wednesday, Henson said.
Henson said of the non-cleaning damage: “We fared pretty good as a district. What we are finding is that portable classrooms had some roof damage. We had some roof leaks. We had some stadium light issues because of high winds and we are bringing engineers back to check on that and we had some electrical components fail due to power outages and fluctuations.”
The smell of wet dogs in the morning
Greene had spent time at Mills during the storm and smiled Wednesday as she talked about the smell of dogs who were wet from being taken outside to do their business and then re-crated — a process that went on for four days.
“It was quite ripe,” Greene said with a grin.
Parents don’t need to pack lunch on Monday because we will be restocked
Regina Thoma, director, food and nutrition services for Manatee schools
“As long as we could get them into a crate we took them,” Greene added of the Noah’s Ark of animals.
Thanks to the workers and their bleach products, Mills was on its way to smelling fresher on Wednesday but Henson, who joined Greene on the tour along with Regina Thoma, director, food and nutrition services and school spokesman Mike Barber, said he would not be content with just smelling a little fresher.
“One of the challenges we have is making sure each facility is safe,” Henson said. “We have transportation help working and staff that normally doesn’t work here. Everyone has come together including food service, transportation, custodial, maintenance, all the department have pitched in to get these schools ready.”
“We owe it to our parents and students that Mills and all of our schools are safe and that means clean,” Henson added.
Hanson assigned 100 of his maintenance staff to cleaning duty. Roughly 30 bus drivers also were recruited and Thoma added many from her food staff to the Mr. Clean brigade.
“Parents don’t need to pack lunch on Monday because we will be restocked,” vowed Thoma, who noted that about $70,000 worth of frozen food was removed from 11 schools without power Tuesday.
Behind Mills was a huge pile of black garbage bags. The district contracts with Waste Management and Waste Pro and Henson said that both of those companies have been overwhelmed by the amount of garbage that needs hauled to the landfill.
“We’re hoping by Friday they will be able to pick up our trash,” Henson added.