As Gulf District Schools deal with the rising costs of Hurricane Michael, Verizon stepped into the fray this week with a generous gift for a local foundation supporting public schools.
The Education Foundation of Gulf County received a $100,000 boost from Verizon along with STEM Kits (Inventor and Synth Kits for Little Bits) for elementary school classes.
For Kate Jay, a Verizon representative from Atlanta and a native of Alabama, the donation was “personal.”
“When I came down in the first days after (Hurricane Michael) I was just devastated by what I saw. It was heartbreaking,” Jay said.
Her company, she said, was committed to providing short-term assistance to impacted communities it serves, but more importantly committed to helping the long-term recovery.
“This is part of that commitment,” she said, adding the $100,000 was to support staff and children in the classroom.
The Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, can make those dollars multiply through the state education foundation, which provides matching funds for dollars raised locally.
In addition, the Foundation’s mission is to support classroom efforts where the district is unable.
In particular, each year the Foundation awards grants to classroom teaches for new and innovative teaching programs and curriculum.
“I commend the Education Foundation,” said the Gulf County School Board’s Cindy Belin, who is a non-voting board member of the Foundation. “They are making things happen that will improve our school system.”
And that system, right now, is steadily coming to grips with the costs of Hurricane Michael.
Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton said Tuesday that the district has already received $2 million in emergency insurance funds with $6 million more coming after adjusters have finalized damage assessments.
He said he estimated the total cost of damages from the storm to reach $10 million.
And that does not include the impact on revenue from student enrollment or legislative action during the current session to address likely financial shortfalls due to loss in property values.
The key for the district, he added, was adhering to the FEMA process and paperwork to ensure the district is not left on the hook for any insurance deductibles.
At $10 million, the district would need to come up with $200,000, or 2 percent, money it does not have.
The district is working with the Integrity Group in assuring the district properly adheres to FEMA guidelines.
“We are dealing with FEMA, we are dealing with insurance and we are dealing with immediate needs,” Norton said. “There are a lot of moving parts and we need to do things right.”
Among those immediate needs is an electrical overhaul at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School.
The problems started with the loss of several pumps serving the chilling towers during Michael.
After some band-aiding on the part of district staff, the issues have spread beyond the few pumps to the main disconnect for the power system and the main power panel.
Woody Borders, supervisor of maintenance, said much of the wiring and installation dates to the 1970s.
Making the project more complex, a main wire from the panel runs under the school’s asphalt parking lot.
But the problems, investigation has revealed, is due to water leaking from a roof damaged by Michael, the project falling under the umbrella of efforts for which the district will be reimbursed as storm-related.
The system will need a full replacement, a three-day job that will include tearing up the parking lot along the path of the main line.
The job is expected to be completed over Spring Break later this month.