Almost 6 months post-Florence, more than 800 students still displaced

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Topsail Elementary School is still suffering from roof damage. (Photo: Monique Robinson/WWAY)

PENDER COUNTY,NC (WWAY) — It has been 179 days since Hurricane Florence struck the Carolina coast. Almost six months later, businesses and families are still struggling to recover.

More than 800 students are still displaced and living in temporary sites. But, Pender County Superintendent Steven Hill says his top priority is not letting that setback impact their education.

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“Category one wasn’t supposed to be this extreme, but when it stays as long as it does and it blows as long as it does [it can be extreme],” said Hill. “This is an event like never seen before in history here.”

Hill says it could take years for the schools to get back to 100%.From mold remediation to mildew remediation, the first step to recovery cost around $8 million and completing all these repairs could add millions more.

“I still live in a house that hasn’t been touched,” said Hill. “I have no cushion under my carpet. I have walls that are peeling. So, the school system is just a larger piece of that puzzle to the whole community. This is something we’re going to deal with for years.”

Months later, more than 860 students are still living in trailers and other temporary spaces. 15 out of 18 schools in the county still have damage.

“It’s all about trying to get the projects prioritized which is basically what’s the most important and, obviously, that’s roof work,” said Hill. “You have to protect it before you build the insides back in. The concept there is finding those contractors. ”

But, Hill says the whole community has come together. During the holidays, when families couldn’t afford to celebrate, the schools stepped up.

“We had to actually assign someone a full time job to do nothing more than actually supervise the program of giving out presents to almost 800 families,” said Hill.

The schools are currently in the process of applying to FEMA for reimbursements. Hill says the remaining repairs could cost about $2 million more.