Two years later, Manatee schools continue Hurricane Irma cleanup. A state grant will help

Thousands of people and beloved pets took refuge inside area schools when Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017, leaving a mark that exists to this day.

Rain made its way from the exterior to the floor at Braden River High School, and the mixture of wet fabric and Florida heat caused irreparable damage in two buildings. While much of the damage lurks below, more than 3,000 people walked on the carpeted floor during Irma, leaving stains and erosion on the surface.

The school soon fixed its roof and replaced its ceiling tiles, but the original carpet — first installed in 2005 — is still in place. Sometimes the school’s air conditioner is set to a higher temperature or turned off completely to save money, usually over the weekend, and that’s when the damage becomes apparent.

“You can come in and still get that remnant of, wow, there was probably something wet here,” said Sharon Scarbrough, the school’s principal. “Once that A/C pulls the humidity back out of the building, it’s much better.”

Thanks to federal money distributed by the Florida Department of Education, Braden River and several other schools may soon have the money to address existing damage from Hurricane Irma.

Last year, the district expected to receive nearly $1.3 million from the Restart Program, which assists public and private schools in recovering from the storm. Manatee schools needed the money to repair dozens of campuses, to clean up debris and to dispose of the food that spoiled at 29 schools — the result of power outages.

Area schools are likely to benefit from an additional $149,220 in the near future, through a recent extension of the program, according to Tuesday’s school board meeting agenda.

Braden River High needs $83,000 to replace 2,350 square yards of carpet “due to excessive wear and tear during use as a shelter,” according to the grant application.

“All carpets have been cleaned numerous times and remain stained and still have a pungent odor,” it states.

Building 4 houses the school’s auditorium and music rooms, which flooded after a joint broke in the water line last week. The carpet, already damaged by Irma, was immediately torn out.

Bayshore Elementary is slated to receive more than $25,000 for its weathered media center. The money will help to replace 472 square yards of carpet, according to the grant application.

“While not originally designed as a pet shelter, as the storm approached, all sites began to accept pets,” it states.

If the grant application is approved by school board members and accepted by the state, Manatee High School will put nearly $25,000 toward damaged windscreens at the football field, along with screens at the top of its press box and the top of its home bleachers.

“Maintenance staff tried to piece the screens back together with zip-ties, to no avail,” the application states.

Two private schools would also benefit from the added money. Saint Stephen’s Episcopal would receive $2,443 to repair its fences, while Bradenton Christian would receive nearly $3,000 to repair its roof and a “batting tunnel system.”

Manatee School of Arts and Sciences, a charter school in Bradenton, would receive about $540 to repair its roof shingles.

And while area schools are still recovering from the 2017 hurricane, district staff are hoping to prevent such extensive damage in the future. The district has since provided its large shelters with hurricane kits, including megaphones, vests, arm bands, sign-in sheets and pertinent contact information.

It also plans to cover floors and walls with Visqueen, or plastic sheeting, to prevent floor damage in shelters, according to Todd Henson, the director of maintenance and operations.

“We can easily just wrap that Visqueen up and throw it in the dumpster, so we won’t have these issues again,” he said.