Marion County Public Schools came to the rescue when Hurricane Irma projected her wrath in early September. Because our community does not have an active Red Cross chapter, public schools serve as shelters during hazardous weather. Fourteen schools can handle 14,987 evacuees plus 400 pets. Fortunately, Irma did not require all 14 schools. Here’s a look at how Marion County Public Schools served our community during one of Mother Nature’s most severe storms.
- 11 schools opened as shelters, including three as “special needs” shelters.
- 4,800+ evacuees received safe housing, hot food, comfort, care and personal attention in our school shelters.
- Over 400 pets were housed at Vanguard High, including 247 dogs, 115 cats, 13 birds, three rabbits, two fish, one hamster, one guinea pig and one raccoon family (four pet raccoons).
- School principals served as shelter managers and received annual training to successfully prepare, open, operate and close a shelter.
- 16 bus drivers and their vehicles picked up special needs and other evacuees from all over Marion County, and then returned them home once the storm had passed.
- 400+ school district employees manned shelters, served food, transported special needs patients, took care of pets and provided countless other services to those evacuees.
- 300 anticipated special needs evacuees turned into 800, prompting additional shelters to open.
- All schools re-opened one week after Irma to a first-day-of-school atmosphere.
- The day after Irma hit, 24 schools had no power. That number dropped to 10 three days later, five four days later and then to two five days later. Six days after Irma struck, power was restored to all 52 schools. SECO, Ocala Electric Utility and Duke Energy made schools a priority.
- MCPS sold 10K gallons of diesel to Duke Energy to help fuel their 1,700 trucks and 3,700 workers staged at the Dunnellon Airport.
- All students can receive free lunch through Oct. 20 as hurricane relief. MCPS continues offering free breakfast to all students regardless.
Governor Rick Scott closed all schools Friday and Monday, Sept. 8 and 11. MCPS closed the following four days, Sept. 12-15. The following dates will be used as weather make-up days for Hurricane Irma:
- The following early release dates will now be full school days: Nov. 1, Dec. 6, Jan. 24.
- October 17, previously listed as a teacher training day, will also now be a full school day.