Hurricane Challenge: Our county has endured tremendous loss over the last month due to Hurricane Florence. As a school system, we are working to return to some sort of normalcy; however, at the same time, we are sensitive to the fact that so many are still displaced, facing difficult challenges and/or supporting restoration efforts. Please rest assured that you are not forgotten and our Board of Education and I, along with your entire DCS family, remain committed to assisting those in need.
Structural and water damages combined with long-term power outages across the county have made recovery in our schools especially tedious. Immediately after the storm, our insurance adjusters and inspectors set into motion a plan that called for licensed restoration and catastrophe mitigation experts to take the lead. Floors and ceilings are being cleaned and replaced as needed and surfaces are being disinfected. The high humidity and moisture inside the buildings are directly correlated to the air quality; therefore, dehumidifiers and HEPA filtration systems are drying and simultaneously purifying the air.
We are confronted with a huge challenge and recovery that is beyond our control. While we are assisting the experts in any way we can, this is a process that cannot be rushed. We are not unnecessarily delaying our opening as we must rely on the contractors’ professional recommendations. Our school system operates as one and we will continue to operate as one. As soon as the experts clear us, our teachers and staff will quickly prepare for our students’ return. We can hardly wait for this day!
It’s frustrating for everyone involved and we truly appreciate our community’s patience and resiliency as we navigate this unprecedented path. At the same time, we are also counting our blessings and thankful for the many who are dedicated to helping Duplin County and Duplin County Schools return to normal.
I want to personally thank our local and outside government and private agencies, including those who coordinated emergency shelters at four of our schools. Our employees who helped man shelters and provide relief for assigned workers are to be commended. DCS students, staff members, and families joined with countless people, organizations, and businesses to stock and man distribution centers. We are thankful that school administrators and support team members are working to connect with staff members and students to help ensure those who need assistance are getting it. Our faith-based leaders and churches continue to be our rock and the hands and feet of the Lord. You have served thousands and prayed for all and we can never thank you enough.
Our distinguished state leaders have provided a great deal of relief for our teachers and staff with the passage of a bill that forgives up to 20 missed days for all employees. This means all employees will be paid without the use of vacation and/or sick leave. What a blessing! We are also thankful that the bill gives districts the flexibility to adjust their school calendars to best meet the needs of all students.
We value the time teachers spend with our students each school day. It provides immeasurable opportunities for academic and personal growth. To guarantee our students get every minute they deserve to prepare them for our competitive world, we are working on creative ways to minimize loss of instructional time. Our Board of Education wants a revised calendar that will not put any hardship on our students or staff. Therefore, the Calendar Committee is working on a revised calendar that will benefit everyone without affecting already designated holidays, spring break, or the length of school days. Also, Saturday school will not be explored at this time. A revised calendar will be sent once all buildings have been inspected and cleared for definite reentry.
I have always said and will always believe, the strength in Duplin County is the people of Duplin County. We are “Duplin Strong” because of all of you.
May God continue to bless and protect you and your families.