School assessments after Hurricane Florence

Updated: Sep. 18, 2018 at 4:06 PM EDT
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SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Tens of thousands of children across Southeastern North Carolina are out of school in the wake of Hurricane Florence. WECT is compiling information as it comes in from the local school districts on damage assessments and what parents can expect in terms of when students will potentially be able to return to class. This will be updated as more details are made available.


At least 60% of New Hanover County Schools suffered some sort of damage during Hurricane Florence, including major flooding at some schools. NHCS Superintendent Tim Markley tells us there is still standing water at some campuses, and the clean-up effort will take some time.

"We have to get into the buildings and assess what we have," Markley explained. "We have significant water damage in a number of buildings. There are some we haven't gotten into because of washed out roads...some schools with standing water. Trask, which served as a shelter, had a roof leak...leaked into a classroom, going into the hallways."

Markley said they believe at least 15 of the county schools have significant damage on initial assessment.

Those clean-up efforts could hamper the ability to reopen schools. Another challenge: only 20 of the 44 principles in the school district are actually in New Hanover County as of Tuesday morning. Presumably, a considerable number of teachers and students are also still evacuated or trying to get back.

"With access issues, getting them back will be a process. If that's the status for principals, I'm sure it's the same for students," Markley said.

School officials say NHCS will remain closed through September 21 and may be closed at least a portion of next week. Officials are considering shifting students at the hardest hit schools to other schools while repairs are made. These decisions are still being made.

"We're working on plans...if we have to shift students around to different schools, and maybe use some mobile classrooms...similar year-round schools have intercession starting next week, so they're off for three weeks," Markley said. "We may have to look into using their schools during intercession. There are a lot of logistics that go into this."

For students and parents wondering if their school is affected, Markley said once a full assessment of all county schools is made in the next 48 hours, the district will post more information on their website.

"It's going to be a monumental task," Markley said.


School administrators are currently assessing all the schools and for most the most part, they look to have only suffered minor damages. Initial reports show they are in good shape.

Damages include a few leaking roofs and some flooding, but the damage is repairable.

They are still operating shelters at the three high schools and have just over 660 people in them as of Tuesday morning. Those numbers could go up if more evacuations are necessary. They'll stay open as long as there is a need for them.

As for school makeup days, that would be determined after school is back in session and would be one of the first issues school board members address. Right now BCS is closed through Friday and will make closing/opening decisions on a week by week basis as we learn more about the condition of the roads and flooding.

BCS will find a way for all students to get their instructional time in a safe learning environment once they have a definitive timeline on when schools can reopen. More information will be released later this week.


Initial assessments of the schools indicate facilities received minimal damage from Hurricanes Florence. However, it is still very dangerous as many areas are still heavily impacted from the event.

School officials are still assessing the facilities. As of now, the damage appears to be less than when Matthew hit two years ago. For example, some trees are down on campuses. Some sidewalk covers torn/ripped apart.

More than half of the campuses have power at this time. Central Middle and North Whiteville (1 site) are still without.

Central services is unknown due to flood waters. As of 1 p.m. Monday, there was no water in the building. They will check again as soon as possible.

Some water seeped into Whiteville High School but the custodians and maintenance are working to clean up now.

School officials will assess and make an announcement Friday around 5 p.m. about when students can return.


School spokesman Kelly Jones says Columbus County Schools should have a decision soon about if students can return next week.

Several schools received damage and that is still being assessed. The internet is currently spotty in the county at this time and that is all the information that is immediately available.


WECT is waiting for details from Pender and Bladen County Schools, and will add that information to this story as soon as we have it.

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