The students and staff at Jinks Middle School have dealt with disaster before. Last year, they welcomed children who were displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
This time, part of the school in Panama City, Florida, was ripped apart by Hurricane Michael. The debris-covered floor of the school’s gymnasium is now fully visible from outside.
Principal Britt Smith choked up as he looked at images of the decimated building.
“You can’t make sense of it, but what you do is you take the situation, and what we have to make certain that our kids know is that we must be resilient,” Smith said.
“Resiliency is important, and it’s an important life message that we all have to learn. … But at this point, there’s really no making sense. It’s just how do we get together, how do we recover?”
Tough rebuilding ahead
He said he knows how special the school is to the children, whose community and homes also have been hit hard.
“They had the second floor of some of the apartments – they’re just gone. Roofs are gone. It’s a tough situation.”
He’s been on the phone, checking on students and staff, “lining up social work support to come in to assist.”
Rebuilding the school and other structures is one thing, he said. Then there’s the children’s emotional health.
“We have contractors that will come in and rebuilt the homes,” Smith said. “We (have to) rebuild the kids and their emotional well-being.”