Leon County Schools is seeing an influx of students from counties affected by Hurricane Michael as their home districts are closed. The students are being welcomed with open arms, but their arrival presents challenges.
Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna says the district knew it would have to stand ready for new students when reports of closed schools throughout the Panhandle surfaced.
“As of noon today, we’ve received 46 students from areas, counties affected by the storm,” Hanna told reporters Tuesday.
Hanna says not all of those students will have all the proper documents in tow, as homes and possessions were lost.
“As these kids come in, a lot of them don’t have records,” Hanna said. “But we told our folks to welcome them with open arms, with or without records.”
Hanna expects more students to enroll in the coming weeks. In the meantime, a surge of new students will pose some logistical challenges. For one, the district last week began counting its students to submit enrollment numbers to the State Department of Education in order to pull funding.
“Because we stopped operations as of 5 p.m. on Monday, we lost the rest of last week for FTE week, so we are appealing the commissioner to reschedule and to schedule another FTE window,” Hanna said. “Hopefully it will come after we gain these students. What we don’t want is to gain two, three hundred students that are new and not be able to get the resources from the state to help. Because that would cause us then to have to hire more teachers.”
Leon, like many other districts, was already struggling with teacher recruitment. But to keep class sizes down, it may have to find more.
“Even to go back out now in October and November and hire teachers, unless there are teachers from Bay County, Gadsden County, Gulf County, Calhoun County that end up over here – there would be job opportunities for them if we come to trying to knock those class size numbers down,” Hanna said.
At the next school board meeting, he plans to discuss how to make up the three days lost during the storm. Hanna projects a day and a half could be made up by turning half-days into full days. Quarterly report cards will be coming home a week later than expected. Those are projected to be printed October 29.