Pasco County Schools has provided a helping hand in response to Hurricane Idalia.
Locally, the district set up and operated five hurricane shelters, to enable Pasco residents who were potentially in harm’s way to leave their homes and to safely wait out the storm.
“I cannot begin to thank our team, our staff, enough for staffing those shelters,” Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning said, noting personnel from every district department pitched in to respond.
District crews also responded to give a helping hand to the Suwannee County Schools.
“I got a call on Labor Day wanting to know if we could send a crew to Suwannee District Schools. They have eight schools, total. They were having a hard time getting those schools ready for students, without help.
District employees Mike Witfoth, Richard Witfoth, Harold Wolf and Fred Smith headed to Suwannee County to help the school district get ready to reopen.
They arrived there on Sept. 5 and worked there through Sept. 7, Browning said.
On the first day they arrived, they removed eight dump trucks of materials. The next day, they removed over 30, Browning said.
“These guys slept on hard floors in dark schools, with no electricity. They literally sacrificed … and worked like dogs, ensuring that Suwannee County Schools opened.
“They removed all what they call ‘widow-maker trees’ that were stuck overhead and other trees. They cleaned up all of the downed trees and hauled off tons of debris off their eight school sites.
“So, they were able to open when the rest of the districts opened up,” Browning said.
Assistant Superintendent Betsy Kuhn also thanked district staff for all that they did to open shelters, to feed people in shelters, to transport them there and take care of other duties.
“I saw people acting as waiters and waitresses to some of our elderly residents, to make sure they were taken care of. It really is an experience that makes you feel good to be part of this system, not that we don’t every day, but to see that in action is a really powerful thing,” Kuhn said.
In addition to the shelter staff and management, she thanked the district’s security team, the food and nutrition team, the transportation team and the maintenance team for their work relating to the storm.
In another action, the school board approved Browning’s recommendation to donate 14 buses the district had intended to sell as surplus, but instead are being donated to districts affected by Hurricane Idalia who need them.
In other action, during its Sept. 11 meeting, the board:
- Approved seeking proposals from firms to conduct an impact fee study that includes “an appropriate and legally defensible impact fee methodology and fee schedules for growth-related capital facilities.” Impact fees for schools are charged against new residential construction and are intended to address the costs associated with additional student enrollment resulting from that new development.
- Approved a proclamation relating to the importance of school attendance and how that relates to student achievement. Pasco County Schools is placing particular emphasis on student attendance this year, noting that when students are absent, they lose valuable instructional time, which can cause significant consequences.
- Approved a proclamation recognizing the month of September as suicide prevention awareness month and supporting education and efforts aimed at helping students, teachers and staff to identify and act upon warning signs and risk facts to prevent the loss of life from suicide.
- Approved engaging Wagstaff & Cartmell, LLP and its co-counsel Alfonso Hersch, P.A.; Hand Arendall Harrison Sale, LLC; Beasley Allen Cros, Methvin Portis & Miles, P.C.; and Goza & Honnold, LLC, to provide legal services in connection with the pursuit of claims for damages associated with social media in litigation.
Published September 20, 2023