Schools open under shadow of Irene

Published 12:25 am Friday, August 26, 2011

Kam’Ron Spruill, a second-grader at John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School in Washington, could hardly wait to give third-grade teacher Brandy Council a hug Thursday morning on the first day of the new school year. School officials said things got off to a great start on opening day. (Submitted Photo/Beaufort County Schools)

Beaufort County Schools reported a smooth start to the school year Thursday, a day that was clouded by the specter of Hurricane Irene.

“It is ironic that we’re facing what we’re facing because we had a really smooth, good, positive beginning to the day,” said Sarah Hodges, spokeswoman for the school system.

“Of course, we all had to start thinking makeup days because the calendar situation makes it so hard to make up time now,” she said.

Decisions about the school system’s makeup days will be determined by the severity of Irene’s effects on the county and whether students are able to return to school Monday, Hodges indicated.

By midafternoon Thursday, the system announced classes would be dismissed early today because of the storm.

“In preparation for Hurricane Irene’s arrival in Eastern Carolina, Beaufort County Schools will dismiss 3 hours early on Friday, August 26,” reads a news release from the school system.

“This will enable students and staff to get home well before storm conditions arrive in our area. Families will be able to make final storm preparations and help reduce traffic on area roadways. We will be able to move school buses to safer, accessible locations in our county and open shelters as needed.

“Please monitor local television and radio stations for updates on local conditions. We want each family to take all necessary precautions to remain safe through this storm.”

News updates also will be posted on

In addition to student safety, in opting to close the schools early officials cited a probable need to use school buildings as shelters.

The Zion Shelter & Kitchen is one local agency that could direct its clients to county schools once the public shelters open.

Zion is located in the basement of Washington’s Metropolitan AME Zion Church, which has been flooded in past tropical events.

“If it’s flooding, we’ll send them to the school,” confirmed the Rev. David Moore, pastor of Metropolitan.

The homeless shelter has been averaging about 15 clients per night recently, he said.

As of Thursday, Moore hoped it wouldn’t be necessary to close Zion shelter.

“I pray it’s not too bad,” he said of Irene.

Jim Chrisman, Beaufort County’s acting county manager, said announcements about local shelter openings could come this morning.

Beaufort County’s primary emergency shelters are:

  • P.S. Jones Middle School, 4105 N. Market Street Extension, Washington;
  • Northside High School, 7868 Free Union Church Road, Pinetown;
  • Southside High School, N.C. Highway 33 East, Chocowinity.

The county’s secondary emergency shelters are:

  • Washington High School, 400 Slatestone Road, Washington;
  • Chocowinity Primary School, 600 Gray Road, Chocowinity;
  • Chocowinity Middle School, 3831 U.S. Highway 17 South, Chocowinity;
  • Eastern Elementary School, 947 Hudnell St., Washington;
  • Beaufort County Community College, Building 8, N.C. Highway 264 East, Washington;
  • Bath Elementary School, 110 King St., Bath;
  • Northeast Elementary School, U.S. Highway 264 East, Yeatesville;

Not all shelters may be opened.

Pet owners may arrange to have their pets boarded at a kennel or with a veterinarian, or they may take their animals to the Beaufort County animal shelter, 3931 U.S. Highway 264 East, Washington.