The following article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia.
Hurricane Matthew took its toll on South Georgia. While, thankfully, most lives were spared and property damage wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, thousands of South Georgians are sitting without electricity and running water.
From Swainsboro to the coast, power lines continue to dangle from broken poles toppled by downed trees. While restoration has been continuous, many counties are a long way from being 100%.
So why, given the circumstances, are school systems calling for school to resume as quickly as possible?
Sure, everyone could use a little structure considering many of us have been living off of macadamia nuts and protein bars, but mandating a return to school, while punishing children who don’t currently have the means to prepare for school, is ludicrous.
Take Bulloch County for example: Thousands of Bulloch County residents are still anxiously awaiting the restoration of their power, but Bulloch County Schools have made the decision to resume normal operations Wednesday morning, with the exception of one elementary school. After parents in the rural areas of the county, outside Statesboro, voiced their concerns, the school system took to social media to tell parents they could ‘purchase water’ and allow their children to take a sponge baths.
As ridiculous as that idea sounds, the school system is completely serious. So let’s say kids are able to sponge bathe themselves clean enough for class…where are they supposed to do homework?
It got better as the outrage from parents continued:
Has a representative from the school system traveled all 500 miles of dirt roads in Bulloch County as well as the paved ones to know which ones are able and unable to be traveled? Or will bus drivers wait until Wednesday morning to find out?
McIntosh County, home to Shellman’s Bluff on the coast, is the same way. The Superintendent called for students to return to class Wednesday despite the massive damage to some areas and the power outages that could last several more days.
Neighboring Evans County, where roughly 50% of the county still doesn’t have power, is making a decision on a day-to-day basis. That seems much more reasonable than an arbitrary date because some areas of the county are thriving.
Long County Schools were supposed to return to school Wednesday as well, but after evaluating the number of students without power and running water, postponed the return date until Monday, October 17th. Joining them on the 17th is nearby Tattnall County schools.
Wayne County is optimistic enough to plan to send their kids back Thursday, though they’ve pushed the date back once already.
Why school systems can’t see the forest through the trees is beyond me. It isn’t just about whether or not the school has electricity and water and whether or not the buses have gasoline. If a child is living like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman out on the prairie, it isn’t going to be easy for parents to get them prepared for class. Worse, power companies around the region have made it clear that they will be addressing populated areas first while lines and substations for individuals will be near the bottom of the list. And let’s not forget that the state mandated evacuations for many of these areas. Many were barred from returning home, but the first priority is getting them back to school?
The desired move? School systems need to consider the county as a whole before making a decision, not just the populated cities. Statesboro doesn’t represent Bulloch as a whole, just as Darien doesn’t dictate McIntosh, and Ludowici can’t fully explain Long County. There’s life outside the city – and it isn’t normal for many yet.
Have a little heart – a few more days off won’t kill anyone.