The Manatee County School District announced Wednesday morning it will hold classes on Thursday, but that schools will be closed on Friday because of Hurricane Irma.
Starting Thursday afternoon, the district will begin preparing its campuses to serve as storm shelters for evacuees, Superintendent Diana Greene said during a news conference.
“Because we are committed to our students and our families, we have made the decision along with the EOC to, one, have school tomorrow, on Thursday, but we will be closing all our schools on Friday,” Greene said.
Preparations to ready the schools to become shelters will begin Thursday after dismissal, Greene said. They will start with the special needs shelter and then work to ready the others.
Saint Stephen’s will be closed Friday and Monday due to the threat of Irma, while regular after school programs will continue until 5:30 p.m. Thursday. However, all athletic events scheduled from Thursday through Monday were canceled.
There are 24 Manatee County schools listed as shelters, three of which are pet-friendly. That amounts to nearly half of the traditional public schools in the county.
The capacity for all the county shelters is 35,425, according to a slide show presented Wednesday morning to Manatee County commissioners.
Officials could order evacuations of waterfront areas in the county to start as soon as Friday morning. Should those orders be made, many evacuees are expected to take shelter with family or friends or in hotels and motels.
The size of the population in zone A — 53,574 — exceeds the capacity of the county’s 24 official shelters. Add the residents who live in mobile homes, and the evacuation order could affect more than 100,000 people, officials said. The evacuation of zone A could take between 10 and 17 hours.
Should there be an overflow, the county is in close contact with regional partners to borrow shelters from them as well, Manatee County Emergency Management Chief Sherilyn Burris said.
A decision on if schools will reopen next week has not yet been determined.
Manatee County shelters
Bayshore Elementary School, 6120 26th St. W., Bradenton
Braden River Middle School, 6215 River Club Blvd., Bradenton
Braden River High School, 6545 S.R. 70 East, Bradenton, pet friendly
Buffalo Creek Middle School, 7320 69th St. E., Palmetto
Daughtrey Elementary, 515 63rd Ave East, Bradenton
Freedom Elementary School, 9515 S.R. 64 E., Bradenton
Gullett Elementary School, 12125 44th Ave. E., Bradenton
Haile Middle School, 9501 S.R. 64 E., Bradenton
Johnson Middle School, 2121 26th Ave. E., Bradenton
Kinnan Elementary School, 3415 Tallevast Road, Sarasota
Lee Middle School, 4000 53rd Ave. W., Bradenton
Manatee High School, 1000 32nd St. W., Bradenton, pet friendly
McNeal Elementary School, 6325 Lorraine Road, Bradenton
Miller Elementary School, 4201 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton
Mills Elementary School, 7200 69th St. E., Palmetto, pet friendly
Myakka City Elementary School, 37205 Manatee Ave., Myakka City
Oneco Elementary School, 5214 22nd St. Court E., Bradenton
Prine Elementary School, 3801 Southern Parkway, Bradenton
Rogers Garden Elementary, 515 3t Ave West, Bradenton
Rowlett Elementary School, 3500 Ninth St. E., Bradenton
Seabreeze Elementary School, 3601 71st St. W., Bradenton
Tillman Elementary School, 1415 29th St. E., Palmetto
Williams Elementary School, 3404 Fort Hamer Road, Parrish
Willis Elementary School, 14705 The Masters Ave., Bradenton
Witt Elementary School, 200 Rye Road, Bradenton