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Hebrew Academy Weathers the Storm

Hebrew Academy students and faculty fled from the threat of category five Hurricane Irma earlier this month, only to find that the storm’s bark was worse than its bite. Many Miami residents stayed behind and only faced minimal damages from fallen trees and power outages.

Because Miami-Dade closed all school for the week, Hebrew Academy was left vacant.

Senior Rina Reich stayed home in Hollywood during the week off with no air conditioning or power, and said she was bored out of her mind. Reich said that although it was mandatory to close school, those lost days now have an impact on her upcoming year.  

“The only reason why I’m concerned with missing those days is because it put college applications on hold. Colleges couldn’t come down and visit us and so we couldn’t hear about them,” Reich said. “And A.P.s- the exam date isn’t going to change, so having that week missed put us chapters behind in certain A.P.s. Even the ones we were ahead in, we are a few days behind now.”

Along with the issue of missing school, many students are worried about whether or not extra days will be added to the school year. This concerns a lot of students since they are already planning for the summer. Assistant Principal Dr. Lieber says it may not be a problem.

“Whatever happens, rest assured that we will make sure the students complete the required school work missed. We understand the importance,” Lieber said. 

A majority of high school students complained after an email was sent out officially cancelling the Back to School Bash because too many school days were missed due to the hurricane. Some were upset because they already paid, but were reassured when they were informed that their money would transfer to the upcoming retreat.  

The annual tradition of the Senior class in-school Shabbaton during the first week of school was also postponed due to the hurricane. Many Seniors were bothered by this as they waited for years in high school to spend a Shabbat in the school building. Since the rest of first semester seems to have no available weekends, a second semester date for the Shabbaton will be discussed at a later date.  

The school prepared for the worst, as did most RASG students and faculty. The school’s main focus was the possible technological damages, as they would be the most expensive to repair. The day prior to the evacuation, some faculty members helped maintance put garbage bags over the computers and move them away from windows. IT Administrator Sal Pereira said he backed up the systems, turned off the computers, and made sure they were above the floor in case of flooding. Once the storm passed, all maintenance staff showed up to school, working long hours to make sure everything would work well in time for school on Monday.

Tony Perez and the rest of the maintenance crew spent the day before Hurricane Irma prepping the school. They took everything off the playgrounds, covered cabinets with plastic, locked all the windows, put sandbags in front of the doors, and turned off the power to protect it from a power surge. The crew was able to enter the school the Tuesday before school started to see if there was flooding and power.

“We walked in and discovered a lot of debris in the area, and that’s pretty much it. We stayed all the way to Friday, even Saturday and Sunday,” Perez said. “The first two days was pretty tough, there was debris everywhere, the power was even out, so we had issues as far as using our equipment to cut the tree limbs in the back.”

Some student and faculty members evacuated as far as Spain and Toronto, and others stayed at home for the hurricane. Rafi Benson’s (11th) family was not worried about the hurricane because their house is elevated, and they had enough food, water, and chargers to last.  

“It was pretty cool,” said Benson. “We just sat by our windows all day talking and playing scrabble, while watching the trees literally blow sideways. It wasn’t scary. It was pretty cool. In between the wind gusts we would go on walks and drives, and we would see the gradual fall of trees.”

While some families felt prepared, this was the first hurricane for new AEP Teacher Mr. Phoundoulakis.  

“We did do quite a bit to prepare,” said Phoudolakis. “We went out and filled cars up with gasoline, we got gas for the generator, we stocked up on non-perishables and got flashlights and things to do, games to play in the house, so in case the power was out. We also put up the hurricane shutters.”

Now that Hebrew Academy students are back in school and the excitement of the hurricane is winding down, students and staff are thankful that the hurricane took a turn and that everyone is safe.

“I’m grateful that the eye of the hurricane did not hit Miami Beach because the effect of it  hitting the streets already was so bad, and imagine if it already hit us–we wouldn’t have school for a month,” said Kayla Wolfson (10th). “I feel that our family and our community because of the hurricane became closer.”

By: Samantha Ebner (10th) with additional reporting from Ariella Wolfson (12th), Maya Somek (12th), Yael Bramy (12th), Ava Horowitz (12th), and Jack Benveniste-Plitt (11th)

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