Schools in flooded areas face uncertainty

Published 1:03 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass and leadership from the Kentucky Department of Education held another virtual meeting with superintendents on Thursday to discuss concerns in the 18 school districts impacted by recent flooding in eastern Kentucky.        

Several superintendents participating expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support and provided updates from their communities during the virtual meeting.

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“It’s really humbling when you look up and see a colleague superintendent driving a bus to bring you stuff or a superintendent driving a truck with pallets of water,” said Jonathan Jett, superintendent of Perry County Schools. “We work with a lot of good people that are committed to each other and willing to step up and help.”

With cleanup and restoration services underway in schools across eastern Kentucky, many concerns now turn to meeting the individual needs of students and staff. Breathitt County Superintendent Phillip Watts said 56 staff members were directly impacted, and in one school alone, 81 students lost everything.

“We are already seeing a few kids unenroll and go to places across the state,” he said.

Letcher County Public Schools Superintendent Denise Yonts shared similar concerns about enrollment numbers and checking in on children. As of Aug. 10, she said 1,250 homes in Letcher County are no longer inhabitable.

“I’m worried about our kids. I’m worried about where they are and how they are,” she said.

For districts that had schools become distribution centers overnight, efforts are underway to move the centers to another location in the communities to allow districts to prepare for the new school year.  A majority of the 18 impacted districts have announced they were forced to push back the start of classes.

Kentucky Emergency Management will be sending staff members who are subject matter experts to assist the impacted districts.

Assistant Director of Administration for Kentucky Emergency Management, Stephanie L. Robey, noted the staff will be able to be with districts, “as much or as little as necessary, to ensure there are no hiccups or stumbles.”

To aid in reimbursement from FEMA and other agencies, she also encouraged districts to maintain records of everything and assign a “historian” to document damaged inventory, track the restoration processes, take before and after photographs and identify volunteer activities that took place.