After Irma, shuttered schools add more stress for families

Students in two of the nation’s largest school districts still don’t know when they’ll return to class, forcing many Florida parents to juggle childcare as they head into a second week of recovering from Hurricane Irma.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties had hoped to resume operations Monday. But dozens of schools in the two districts — which serve almost 700,000 students — are still without power. An announcement is expected this weekend.

The uncertainty is putting additional stress on parents trying to return to work.

For Lori Eickleberry, 45, who owns a psychology practice with two offices in South Florida, it means dragging her 10-year-old daughter to work with her. She’s doing double duty since most of her employees have been unable to return to work.

“I have to go to work but she doesn’t go to school,” said Eickelberry, of Coconut Grove. “It’s challenging but we kept busy with activities, some coloring.”

In some southwest Florida districts, classes have been postponed until Sept. 25. In Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, students remain in limbo.

In many South Florida counties, school has not been in session since Sept. 6.

Some parents say the worst part of the hurricane’s aftermath has been the lack of options for children as many stores, pools and water parks have been closed due to cleanup efforts and no power.

Elayne Norweb, 36, says her oldest daughter got sick because of the humidity. The 4-year-old girl showed a reporter her upper lip, which was raw and cracked.

“Everything feels out of sorts. Without power and AC we have been challenged to play activities. With a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old it’s not always the easiest to keep them occupied. So, we are really looking forward to starting school,” she said.

Evelio Torres, president of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe County, said many area preschools had water damage after Irma and had to repair their roofs or leaks before reopening. In the Florida Keys, he suspects day cares may face longer closures because of severe damage to buildings. Torres worries lower-income families are already overburdened with costs to prepare for the hurricane and now can’t go back to work because childcare centers are closed.

“They are really strapped right now. A lot of families are not getting paid,” he said. “This is sometimes the aspect that no one thinks of when they think of hurricanes.”


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