Dear PCPS families,
I want to begin by saying that we truly hope that you and your loved ones are safe following the storm.
We are all thankful for the cooler weather over the last couple days. The heat and humidity that typically follow a hurricane can become unbearable.
It has been a very long and stressful 72 hours. Cleanup efforts are underway. We all want to return to some sense of normalcy. We are making progress, but there is still much work to be done.
Please allow me to share some important updates:
School Status for Next Week: Monday (Oct. 3) – Friday (Oct. 7)
At this time, I am unable to make a decision whether school operations will resume on Monday, Oct. 3.
Many of our schools continue to experience power outages. We have more than 131 PCPS school sites, and there were 77 without power as of yesterday (Sept. 29).
We are grateful to the utility workers who are laboring to restore power throughout our community. The outpouring of support from Florida’s utility companies and neighboring states is truly humbling. If you see a utility crew, give them a friendly wave and a thank you.
If power is restored today or tomorrow to all school sites, reopening schools on Monday (Oct. 3) may be possible if we can address the following critical areas of operation:
- Ensuring schools can prepare food safely with necessary refrigeration, sanitation, and water service
- Completing post-storm cleanup of our campuses
- Having enough staff available to resume school operations
We know that closing schools has a huge impact on the plans and lives of our students and employees, as well as their families. Reopening schools is an essential part of the recovery effort.
Having children in school and away from hazardous storm damage is very important. Many of our students rely upon our schools for food and other support. Our schools also serve as a safe and structured environment for our students.
We are working to reopen schools as quickly as possible, but we must make sure our campuses can function properly and safely. Please look for regular updates via email, automated phone calls, our website and social media.
- PCPS website: polkschoolsfl.com
- Facebook: facebook.com/polkcountypublicschools
- Twitter: twitter.com/polkschoolsnews
- Instagram: Instagram.com/polkcountypublicschools
I am tremendously proud of the compassion and dedication of our shelter workers who answered the call to serve others.
School sites serving as shelters provided refuge to nearly 3,000 people over the course of the last few days. Most of these people have left our shelter sites. On Thursday (Sept. 29), PCPS was able to close all pet-friendly and general population storm shelters.
However, special needs shelters for those with medical concerns are still operational at the Bartow Civic Center, Ridge Community High and McKeel Academy. These will likely be consolidated into one location in the near future. Meanwhile, agencies are working around the clock to get these individuals to more permanent lodging.
Our teams began inspecting schools as soon as the sun came up on Thursday (Sept. 29).
Thankfully, we have not seen widespread damage to our buildings. We are mostly dealing with debris scattered around our campuses and perhaps some water damage.
A huge thanks to our facilities and maintenance employees for working tirelessly over the past two days to make inspections and begin repairs. We also want to thank our custodial staff for helping to put our schools back in order.
PCPS Employee Health Centers
- The Haines City location remains closed due to power outage.
- The Lakeland location remains closed due to the power outage.
- Telehealth options are available. TeleDoc is offering free visits to ANY resident at this time, you can reach them at 1-855-225-5032.
Post-Storm Concerns for Children
It is very common after a disaster for children to continue experiencing anxiety, fear, sadness and mental stress. Below is some helpful information for parents/guardians from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help children cope after a disaster.
Our teachers and school staff will also be looking for students who are struggling post-storm, and will refer children who are showing any of the symptoms listed below to the school counselor.
PCPS also has a telehealth program available to all students and their families through a partnership with Hazel Health, a telehealth provider for K-12 schools.
With Hazel, students can immediately speak with a licensed medical professional or mental health clinician right from home. Hazel services are provided at no charge for all students at this time.
Parents and guardians must give consent if they want their children to receive health care services from Hazel Health. To learn more about Hazel Health and submit a Consent for Care form to opt-in to this new service, visit my.hazel.co/polkschoolsfl.
Info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
After a disaster, children may experience anxiety, fear, sadness, sleep disruption, distressing dreams, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and anger outbursts. Learn the signs of children’s mental stress to help them cope after a disaster.
How can parents and caregivers help children cope after a disaster?
– Give your children opportunities to talk about what they went through or what they think about it. Encourage them to share concerns and ask questions.
– Allow your children to be with you or another trusted adult who can help them feel safe, calm, connected, and give them a sense of hope.
– Limit exposure to mass media coverage of the disaster and its aftermath. Children who were directly exposed to a disaster can become upset again if they see or hear reminders of what happened.
– Encourage your children to take action directly related to the disaster. This can help them regain a sense of control and manage their feelings. For example, children can help others after a disaster, including volunteering to help community or family members in a safe environment. Children, especially young children, should NOT participate in disaster cleanup activities.
– Work with teachers and other adults, who see your children in different situations, to share information about how each child is coping.
When should you seek help from a professional? Children may need continued mental health support for months or longer following a major disaster. Consider talking to a professional (e.g., pediatrician, school counselor, child psychologist, or someone who specializes in children’s emotional needs) if:
- Your child continues to be very upset (e.g., anxious, fearful, sad, angry) for more than 2-4 weeks after the disaster
- Your child’s problems become worse over time instead of better
- Your child’s reactions affect their schoolwork or relationships with friends or family
Helping a child cope with disaster can be challenging for parents. Any time you feel it is necessary, reach out for professional help and support for you and your child.
Call or text Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990; people with deafness or hearing loss can use their preferred relay service to call 1-800-985-5990.