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Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

Evacuees settle in at the emergency shelter at John Hopkins Middle School on Saturday, September 9, 2017 in St. Petersburg. The shelter welcomed people from the area with pets and those with special needs. EVE EDELHEIT | Times
Published Dec. 15, 2017
Updated Dec. 16, 2017

Three months later, the Pinellas County school district has totaled up the costs of operating 16 schools as shelters for 25,000 evacuees during Hurricane Irma.

The district is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for a reimbursement of $2.65 million.

Payroll was the district's largest expense, costing $2.1 million. Designated school administrators and school staff, such as maintenance crew and cafeteria workers, are contractually required to work during a hurricane.

Pinellas County school district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said 17 employees are being internally investigated for failing to show up for hurricane duty.

The next largest expense of nearly $300,000 went to Lang Environmental to clean schools and buses. Smaller expenses include enough food for three meals a day ($124,479), utilities ($41,790), supplies such as paper towels and toilet paper ($25,281), busing 2,000 evacuees to shelters ($18,327), items lost from shelters ($4,023) and fuel for generators ($3,216).

The district does not yet have figures for how much it will seek in property damage claims. Wolf said 115 schools reported damage ranging from structural damage to cleaning up downed trees and branches.

Skyview Elementary in Pinellas Park suffered roof damage during the storm and rain poured into four classrooms. The school district paid to repair the roof and replace carpets and cabinets.

Wolf said the district has a storm-related insurance deductible of $500,000, so the district will claim at least that amount with FEMA. She said the district will claim any amounts that its insurance company denies.

The Pasco County school district will finalize its reimbursement figures by next week, but district officials said during pay negotiations with the teacher's union that payroll costs during the hurricane topped $1.1 million, and more than 120,000 meals were served to residents in the shelters.

Pasco expects to be fully reimbursed for the cost in three to five years.

Times staff writer Jeff Solochek contributed to this report.

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