Hillsborough schools, struggling with power outages, will not open until Monday
After consulting with TECO about more than 100 schools still without power, Superintendent Jeff Eakins has reluctantly agreed to keep the Hillsborough County Public schools closed to students until Monday.
Hillsborough joins a number of other Florida districts, including Pinellas and Pasco, in this decision.
Eakins had tried to open the schools earlier, saying children need to return to their normal routines and feel secure after the upheaval caused by Hurricane Irma.
But, although he said the schools did not show any major structural damage, more than half lost power and a small number experienced water intrusion. Elsewhere, there were fallen limbs and trees that needed to be removed.
Forty schools were deployed as Irma shelters over the weekend, hosting 29,000 fearful residents. School staff were busy on Tuesday, cleaning those schools so teachers could re-assemble their classrooms.
At Middleton High School, which served as a secondary shelter after residents left the others, a small number of residents remained, distresed because they had no place to go. Principal Kim Moore was working with the Red Cross to help them find safe lodging.
Despite all these complications, district officials said the lack of electricity was the overwhelming reason why the schools could not reopen Thursday, as hoped.
"We want to do it safely," said spokeswoman Tanya Arja.
Campuses will be open Friday for those teachers who wish to assess and arrange their classrooms. But that is strictly voluntary.
The district also is aware that many families left the state during the storm. Those who are concerned about missed homework or unexcused absences are encouraged to contact their principals.