LARGO - Two dozen school maintenance workers were to leave Pinellas just after dawn today on a mission to help repair schools in Charlotte County.
The school district employees, who will join crews from Manatee, Sarasota and Miami-Dade counties, will spend at least a week boarding up windows and doors, repairing roofs and doing whatever it takes to put about 15,000 students back in class as soon as possible.
Other local school districts will be lending a hand in Hardee and De Soto counties.
A 10- by 12-foot warehouse truck filled with plywood, generators and roofing materials was to lead this morning's caravan. The workers, who were selected from more than 50 volunteers, will stay in a middle school shelter.
Most of Charlotte County's 20 schools were severely damaged by the hurricane, said Deb Metheny, a school official for the Sarasota County district who is coordinating the relief effort. A handful will need to be rebuilt.
Dan Smith, director of Pinellas County Schools' maintenance department, says he has no idea how much the relief effort will cost Pinellas.
"The focus is on getting the resources down there," he said.