Impacts of Hurricane Ian on Riverdale Elementary
Posted on 10/03/2022
Mondays with Maria Cover Image



Scott Howat (00:08): So, Dr. Vasquez, it's, it's Monday and we're here today. We thought maybe we'd be coming back to school today, but that didn't work out that way. We're actually standing here, um, in a school in Riverdale. Um, just talking about some of the impacts that this storm has had on our, on our students, on our schools. Can you talk a little bit about, about that and what you've heard, uh, this morning and, and over the weekend from some of our employees and some of our parents and so forth? Talk a little bit about that.

Dr. Maria Vazquez (00:38): Yeah. Well, we certainly, um, have had a major impact from, uh, hurricane in. Uh, we are grateful though that it wasn't as bad as other parts of, uh, the state of Florida. From walking around parts of Riverdale. Um, I'm glad to see that a lot of the things are, are gonna be fine. Our, I met with our teachers, um, and support staff this morning at East River where we are relocating them temporarily. Uh, and there's just a lot of support, a lot of, um, feelings of loss. And I think by walking around and seeing that some of their personal items have been saved, uh, some things that have special meaning for them, I think that's gonna help as we work through this, um, period of loss. I'm so thankful for all of our OCPS staff, uh, East River High School, who have welcomed them.

Dr. Maria Vazquez (01:42): Uh, they have come up with, uh, a, a slogan, so to speak, uh, two rivers, uh, one family. And I think that really captures what I've seen these last few days after, um, the hurricane, how everyone has come together, the outpouring of support, um, how we were able to work hand in hand with the mayor's emergency management team, as well as our own working behind the scenes to ensure that we are able to start school. Unfortunately, we weren't able to start today, but we feel very confident that we're gonna be able to bring everybody back tomorrow.

Scott Howat (02:20): Can you talk a little bit about the, uh, the thoughts that go into the decision making around not returning versus returning and, and looking hindsight, You know, did we make the right call? It's always hard to look at that, but, you know, in what you've seen and heard today, um, not, not coming in on Monday, What do you think about that and what would you say to parents and and employees about that?

Dr. Maria Vazquez (02:44): Well, I definitely think it was the right decision. We still had several schools without power yesterday. Um, and for us not to be able to give our parents sufficient notice about, um, the opening of school as well as staff, an opportunity to go in now when the power was on, to ensure that all life's safety measures were, uh, functional. So it is the right decision. It was one that, um, took a while. Lot of conversations from all of the various departments with, within Orange County Public Schools, including Orange County Government, uh, making sure not only that there was power, but that all, uh, there wasn't any damage within, um, those schools. If there are rooms that need to be relocated temporarily. Uh, so the d the decision to open or close schools is not one that happens very, um, easily because there's so many factors.

Scott Howat (03:42): If they have resources that they can help provide to our students, to our parents, uh, for our students or even the teachers,

Dr. Maria Vazquez (03:49): Certainly our foundation already set up that fund for Riverdale. And as we're hearing from more people in our community, there is a great need. And so we are working to be able to establish those channels where they are able to be able to let us know what their needs are, as well as those that are wanting to help. I've gotten phone calls from superintendents across the state. I've gotten, uh, phone calls, um, from, uh, doe from the Florida Association of School. Superintendents, uh, parents have reached out. So there is this outpouring of support and we want to be able to put in place a process where we can connect the two. And we have children and families that are able to get what they need and those individuals that are willing to help match them up.

Scott Howat (04:41): Any final thoughts?

Dr. Maria Vazquez (04:43): Um, I wanna say just thank you, um, for all of our staff that has worked tirelessly, um, over these last several days, uh, nonstop to ensure we are able to open up safe learning and working environments and to our families and, uh, teachers that are coming back. I just ask for your patients. Uh, we're going to lead with Grace and really remember that we've gone through so much and what matters most now is our people. And once we take care of our people, everything else will fall into.