After Hurricane Irma: More than 75% of PBC public schools have power


More than 75 percent of Palm Beach County’s public schools now have power, the school district says, a rate of progress that has administrators optimistic that schools will be ready to reopen on Monday.

Hurricane Irma left just 25 percent of the county’s more than 180 public schools with power on Monday, officials said, but the number of schools with electricity has tripled in 48 hours as Florida Power & Light Co. works to restore them.

“FPL is working tirelessly to get all of us back online,” said Donald Fennoy, the school district’s chief operating officer. “It looks like everything is on track for a Monday restart.”

RELATED: Palm Beach County public schools will be closed all week

By 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, 141 schools — 78 percent — reportedly had power and another 40 were still without power, according to a report provided by the school district.

More than half of the school district’s air-conditioning systems are still offline, but Fennoy said in most cases administrators expect that the systems can be reactivated manually. For units that continue to malfunction, administrators expect to bring in temporary chilling units to keep campuses cool.

In the meantime, the school district has crews collecting debris at campuses across the county. In addition to district workers, the district is using a private company to help ready the campuses for the resumed classes.

Fennoy said the cost of the recovery efforts is “definitely in the millions” for the school district, with most of the cost coming in payments to the cleanup company and overtime for district employees.

The main hurdle to reopening schools is restoring electricity, but Fennoy said administrators are still dealing with other issues that need to be addressed before classes can resume.

“We still have a lot of employees outside of the state,” he said. “And we’re hoping that the food delivery system will get back in place.”



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