Lessons from Hurricane Michael

An Interview with Bay District Schools, Florida

In the fall of 2018, Hurricane Michael was the first Category 5 hurricane to impact the Florida panhandle. Families lost their homes, their jobs, and children were not able to attend school. During this time of crisis, Bay District Schools worked hard to ensure kids could access lessons through remote learning. Remote learning takes place when students and teachers are separated by time and distance and cannot gather together in a traditional classroom. The district had adopted Achieve3000 Literacy, our online learning solution for accelerated and differentiated learning, the previous fall. We interviewed Sharon Michalik, district director of communications, to learn more about how they did it.

How were you able to sustain students’ well-being and learning in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael?

“Very quickly after the storm we began to send out information to our parents, using any means possible, about learning opportunities they could access IF they had both power and internet. We got a plethora of positive feedback from parents about this valuable information and we know that those who could were happy to access Achieve3000 and other online supports.”

What advice do you have for other districts in supporting students and families after a disaster strikes?

“Our experience has proven that communication is key in times of trouble and we would encourage anyone else facing a disaster of this magnitude to search out ways to communicate with families when obvious means are unavailable. These were our most-effective strategies:

  • We made flyers and sent them to the Points of Distribution (PODs) that were handing out emergency supplies, we used the county’s variable message boards to share information and we used the mainstream media as much as we could.

  • We taped radio interviews with the Superintendent on telephones and took those to the radio station broadcasting out of the Emergency Operations Center.

  • We used as much social media as possible.

  • Internally, we gathered disaster relief information daily (about supplies, housing, etc.) and sent an email to all of our employees every day. Many people let us know afterward that they came to rely on those daily emails as trusted sources of valuable information.”

How has your partnership with Achieve3000 been helpful in maintaining your students’ quality of education despite the many challenges you were facing post-hurricane?

"Many of our teachers, students, and schools had significant losses of instructional materials as an impact of Hurricane Michael. As schools were able to access the internet our partnership with Achieve3000 provided access to individualized learning, materials, and resources that may have otherwise been lost. Students who had to relocate from one BDS school to another (due to housing, transportation, or other challenges) were able to continue working at the individualized level of instruction as student profiles and previous work transferred with the student. Having access to Achieve3000 provided consistency to our students and teachers and allowed our students to continue their learning while in recovery mode."

Learn more aboutRemote Access for Achieve300 Literacy.