By Kevin Gaddie, Team Eglin Public Affairs
/ Published August 13, 2019
Elaine LaJeunesse, Team Eglin school liaison, discusses Tyndall Air Force Base military children school transition matters with Marcus Chambers, Okaloosa County schools superintendent, Aug. 8 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Hundreds of Tyndall AFB’s military children, impacted by Hurricane Michael, were forced to attend new schools at Eglin and surrounding school districts, after the storm ravaged the base in October. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Gaddie)
Hundreds of Tyndall Air Force Base’s military children impacted by Hurricane Michael were forced to attend new schools after the Category Five storm ravaged the area.
“The families and their children went through a roller coaster ride,” said Elaine LaJeunesse, Team Eglin school liaison. “Their sense of normalcy was disrupted.”
Many Tyndall military members with school-age children transferred here. Some children were enrolled in Eglin Elementary School. Others went to Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Escambia, Bay and Walton County school districts, she said.
“Team Eglin immediately opened its arms to assist the families with military child educational support,” she said. “Our base leadership was extremely supportive.”
LaJeunesse was the focal point for school transition matters at the Tyndall Welcome Center. She collaborated with more than 50 on and off-base agencies for assistance.
She gave military child education briefs to more than 670 Tyndall members since January.
Eglin Elementary School and all five school districts helped families enroll their children into their new schools. Each district placed a ‘military families’ icon on their websites for access to registration and enrollment information.
Many of the children registering did not have school records available.
“Our goal was to get the kids into a routine immediately,” said Dennis Samac, Eglin Elementary School principal. “Once we did, the parents could address other concerns.”
Samac and his teachers, guidance and mental health counselors, teamed to help the children adjust.
“They’re used to transferring to new schools every few years, so the transition wasn’t difficult for them,” Samac said.
The school received donated backpacks containing school supplies and clothes from neighboring communities for the new students.
Samac expects the number of Tyndall children enrolled at his school to grow as more Tyndall families receive base housing.
“I’m proud of our school’s efforts help Tyndall’s military children,” he said. “We continue to work in partnership to serve the people who serve us.”
Marcus Chambers, Okaloosa County schools superintendent, said more than 460 Tyndall students from 330 families enrolled in many of his district’s 36 schools during the 2018-2019 school year.
“We immediately opened our doors to every student who came from Tyndall,” he said. “Our schools took them in like family. When times were tough, we pulled together for the Tyndall military community and will continue to do so.”
Chambers estimated more than 200 more Tyndall students will enroll this school year.