Lee County schools on the mend, but some may need ‘temporary’ campuses

Florida Phoenix | By Danielle J. Brown | October 13, 2022

Hard-hit counties in Southwest Florida are working to get their schools reopened so that students can finally return to classrooms after Category 4 Hurricane Ian swept through Florida and upended coastal communities.

And all school districts will be open by Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a Cape Coral press conference Thursday.

“Here in Lee, they really had the toughest job. But they’ve worked so hard to be able to get to the point where the kids can be can be back in school,” DeSantis said.

That does not necessarily mean every school will be functioning by that time.

While most school districts closed during the last week of September in preparation for Hurricane Ian, five districts have experiences longer shutdowns due to the damage and disruptions caused by the storm: Hardee, Charlotte, Lee, DeSoto, and Sarasota.

Lee County Superintendent Christopher Bernier said dozens of schools will be able to open at least by Wednesday, Oct. 19. He noted that some school openings are waiting on safety assessments.

“One of the biggest things we’re waiting on right now are some air quality results. We have 68 lab results into the lab. As soon as those labs clear, then we have the green light on our safety checklist to open those schools,” Bernier said.

“I heard them referred to as ‘the Lucky 13’ today — we have the Lucky 13 [schools] that’ll be opening on Monday. As of 9 o’clock this morning, we have another 11 that will be notified today that they can reopen on Tuesday. That number is only going to go up,” Bernier explained.

He said that some lab results are expected to come in this Friday, which would green-light another 38 schools for Wednesday.

He did mention some of the harder hit areas in Lee County, such as Fort Myers and Sanibel, will need temporary campuses.

“We will be building temporary campuses — we have some commitments as early as Oct. 31 to try to get those buildings up, so that we no longer have to partner those schools with another fellow elementary school and give them a place of their own. But we are committed to keeping that community of learners together.”

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