Hurricane Ian brings two schools together
Posted on 10/10/2022
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Dr. Vazquez (00:08): Hello, I'm Maria Vasquez, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, and this is Mondays with Maria This week I wanted to revisit questions after Hurricane Ian, and again, take this time to say thank you for your patience and understanding. Last week, we had a successful few days back at school after Ian, any residual effects are continuing to be addressed. Chief Communications Officer Scott Howat is back with more questions from our parents.

Scott Howat (00:38): Thanks Dr. Vasquez. Thanks for having me back on Mondays with Maria. It's been more than a week since, uh, Hurricane Ian hit us. And I know the impacts on our community, on our schools, on our children, on our employees, uh, varied in some, some, uh, it was very difficult. As you reflect back on last week in returning to school, talk a little bit about, um, the feelings and things that you heard from, from those individuals that were impacted.

Dr. Vazquez (01:10): So it really was, uh, an emotional week for so many of us, not just because we were dealing with how are we going to start school, uh, but listening to the stories of parents, teachers, students, and what they have endured. And the one theme that came across that, that just, uh, touched my heart was that of gratitude, um, and resiliency and how our our community, despite losing homes, precious items, having to be displaced, not having electricity or internet, were just grateful that there were people out there. Uh, thinking about them and offering to help The outpouring of support has been amazing.

Scott Howat (02:09): So, um, speaking of support in the, in the great amount of support that we've seen throughout the community, uh, Riverdale specifically, they returned to school last week. Can you talk a little bit about, uh, Riverdale and, and what they've experienced?

Dr. Vazquez (02:24): I think that really is, uh, a, a shining star in what we have experienced. I was able to go out and talk to the teachers and staff, uh, at Riverdale and many of them have been there for over 20 years. And the sense of loss and what what comes next was very real. But what the team from East River High School, starting with, um, the principal to the teachers, the custodians, uh, as well as other support personnel have done to make them, uh, feel welcome and transition has been amazing. Last week, Thursday was their first day back and from signs of UHS loves Riverdale to cheerleaders students to get on the bus, greeting them as they got out of the car, the band playing as the students, uh, took their first steps on East River High School, it was so touching, my heart was full to see how all of Orange County public schools, administrators, support staff, teachers, and students have come out to support our, our family from Riverdale.

Scott Howat (03:43): What a special time for them to all get together. Um, any, uh, any special, uh, things that came out of that as far as, uh, the principals and what they talk about and what they're kind of labeling this, uh, this, uh, merger, so to speak, of the two schools? Yeah.

Dr. Vazquez (04:01): Um, Becky Watson, the principal of East River High School, uh, came up with a slogan that has stuck two rivers because it's Riverdale and East River. One family and I, I just am moved by how we have looked at all aspects to make such a difficult time, One that can be, um, as smooth and supportive as possible.

Scott Howat (04:30): That's great. Uh, one thing that I know that is on, uh, employee and parents' minds is makeup days. Oh. So, um, when are the makeup days, Dr. Vasquez, when are we gonna hear something or know something about makeup days? Cuz we know that, uh, that that's coming

Dr. Vazquez (04:46): And I've been asked that quite a bit. Uh, we are actually waiting on the state to be able to, uh, give us direction and see if they're going to waive any of the days. And then that will determine how many days we need, uh, to be able to make up. We have enough instructional minutes to be able to give one day, and if we extended one Wednesday, that would give us enough minutes for two days. So I am hopeful that, um, if the states, if the state waves one or more days at most, all we would have to make up is one day, the one on October 28th.

Scott Howat (05:21): Okay, great. Well, um, it's been a challenging, uh, 10 days and, uh, we certainly, uh, looking back at all that, any final thoughts? Any things that you wanna, wanna share with, uh, with our community, with our administrators, teachers, support staff?

Dr. Vazquez (05:38): Um, I, I wanna say thank you. It really has been an incredibly emotional time for all of us, uh, trying to make sure that we were, uh, ready to start school and keeping top of mind the emotional toll this has had on our community. And so from, um, our executive policy group, all of the chiefs to the team at the Emergency Operations Center, to the custodians, the individuals from facilities, our principals, our teachers, our students who have all rallied around this cause of making sure we return to school, but that we are also taking care of people and are, uh, taking care of their emotional toll has just been, um, so heartwarming to me. And I couldn't be prouder to be superintendent of Orange County Public Schools. Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart.