Shift Happens

Jenna McKee, Editor-In-Chief

Though Hurricane Irma’s reign has finally ended, the path of destruction and devastation she left in her wake is far from over. Over six million Floridians were forced to leave their homes and belongings in a state that was supposedly destined for annihilation, as the largest and deadliest hurricane in modern-day history slowly inched it’s way closer to the place we call home.

Marco Island, a speck on the map, home to 16,413 people in the condensed area of 22.79 mi², suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. She did not take our lives into consideration when throwing her 130 mph winds our way, obliterating our homes and local businesses. She did not take our lives into consideration when impaling our island with her four foot storm surge, flooding our homes as pieces of our lives washed away with her current. She did not take our lives into consideration when we returned from a mandatory evacuation and saw our lively community built on the foundations of hard work and dedication, become a desolate, ghost town.

Marco Island stands as a symbol of hope, that no matter what obstacles are placed in our way, we, as a community, will band together and overcome it. It was said that our island would be eradicated, wiped off the grid before we had the opportunity to return. Now we stand here today, with another obstruction in our way. The Collier County Public School Board did not take our lives into consideration when revising the new academic school calendar.

While the impending threat of Irma was still at large, 27 Collier County schools were being used as shelters to house 17,000 people and their pets, rendering the schools out of commission. Not only that, but a lack of power and a multitude of varying damages inflicted upon the schools prevented students from returning and classes resuming. As a result, the county was faced with the challenge of making up 11 school days. Though the make-up days selected are anything but appropriate.

Days previously observed by schools as national holidays were the first pick for our make-up days. National holidays including: Rosh Hashana, Veterans Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and President’s Day. Though, Winter Break, consisting of Christmas, was left intact. So why are some national holidays deemed as more important than others in the eyes of the Collier County Public School Board?

These national holidays are celebrated by a large and diverse demographic of people who are celebrating their cultures, heritages, religions, and sacrifices. The percentage of national holidays chosen as make-up days is disproportionate to the non-celebratory, vacation days that were available as well, but were left untouched. Between Winter Break and Spring Break, there are a total of 15 non-celebratory, vacation days. With 11 school days we are required to make-up, rather than taking away our national holidays, the Board could have chosen to utilize these vacation days as our make-up days.

Hurricane Irma was especially impactful to Marco Island Academy’s four block schedule, completely disfiguring our curriculum. Unlike other Collier County schools that continue the same courses throughout both semesters, Marco Island Academy starts and ends a course within the same semester. The Board’s decision to extend the first semester to January 16th, rather than ending the day before Winter Break in December, completely disrupts the Academy’s curriculum.

At Marco Island Academy, our End of Course (EOC) exams take place at the conclusion of both semesters. Though the first semester has been extended dramatically, the EOC’s still hold their original place at the end of December. Thus exposing students to being unprepared to take the EOC exams that quite literally determine whether they pass the course or not. If the student fails the test, they are subject to retaking the course and exam the following year, potentially setting them back academically and jeopardizing their future opportunities.

Natural disasters are unpredictable and unforgiving, though they are inevitable. After Irma struck, our island was left in shambles. However, our city came together and we began to rebuild our lives, not only individually, but as a community as well. We had to learn how to adapt to our new surroundings, finding new ways to overcome unprecedented obstacles thrown in our way.

Change knows no boundaries and is off limits to no man. To survive, you must adapt to and evolve with your surroundings, both in life and in nature. Marco Island and many other communities had to readjust their everyday lives to be able to survive in a post-devastation environment, where they must work to rebuild not only their communities, but themselves as well. The Collier County Public School Board must follow from our example, learn a lesson in malleability, and adapt to their new surroundings.