While not perfect, school superintendent says evacuees treated like family


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Students went back to school after lending their place of learning to thousands fleeing Hurricane Matthew.

Predicted to be deadly, Augusta-Richmond County braced itself to receive thousands from the Savannah area.  Richmond County School System Superintendent, Angela Pringle, told us the district began tracking the story early.

“About a week before the evacuees arrived we began the planning process,” she described.

Eight Richmond County schools, including Laney, T.W. Josey, Butler, Academy of Richmond County and Glenn Hills, switched back to learning facilities after serving as a safe haven for hundreds of Chatham County evacuees.

Pringle said those in need gained access after being bused into the CSRA.

“Access to showers. You always want to have your bus drivers trained and prepared to assist in any type of evacuation that requires transport,” she said.

She added an operations plan told the school system how to care for people seeking refuge in Augusta from the Savannah area. She said the memorandum of agreement spells out basic needs such as food, medical care and other services.

“We did make an agreement with the Red Cross for people in our shelters to provide the three meals per day.”

The shelters were all managed by the Red Cross and Pringle said her kitchen staff served the meals, which were USDA approved. School staff and volunteers came out in droves to lend a hand too. The 2011 memorandum of agreement brought multiple entities together, such as Augusta’s Emergency Management, the school system and even Animal Services with Chatham County.

“We were able to treat those folks who really needed us life family. If you went to a shelter or spent any time in a shelter, what you would know is any gaps that existed were not known to the people we were serving,” she told NewsChannel 6.

As with any large scale event, Pringle said there were areas of improvement. Red Cross agrees.

Board member Chad Harpley explained, “We had some stuff that started out slow as far as getting supplies to some of the shelters, but people kicked in immediately and it was great. It’s always a learning experience. Now we can go back to the drawing board with the county, with the EMAs and look at the things that could have been a problem and try and correct those.”

Pringle said anytime there’s a disaster, all parties need to debrief.  She said Administrator Janice Jackson plans to do just that.  But overall she believes they accomplished their goal.

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