Reopening district schools a priority for Lee County but some buildings may be beyond repair

WGCU | By WGCU Staff | October 3, 2022

The Lee County School system is looking to reopen schools as soon as possible.

That plan comes despite photos showing the damage at schools in Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island and Sanibel.

Photos and information posted by the district showed the extent damage at those schools and indicated that more than half the county’s school structures are in a “low need of repair” status, 14 percent need “major” repairs and a few “may be beyond repair.”

The district said certified building inspectors are visiting campuses for a professional opinion.

Pine Island Elementary

School superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier posted a Facebook video Monday that outlined several aspects of what the county schools are doing including a food distribution event and making plans to restart school despite the buildings that have been damaged.

Details on the 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. food event set for Wednesday, done in conjunction with Miami-Dade Public Schools, will be released later, he said.

“As we continue our efforts in reaching all of our staff, students, and families, we are also actively working with the EOC in support of all recovery efforts,” he said. “Our teams have been working day and night with a focus on getting our schools ready to reopen.”

Bernier said that officials have initially assessed every school and all buildings and know the condition of each.

Fort Myers Beach Elementary

“We have some schools that are ready to open. Others need minimal work,” he said. “Some of our schools will require significant repairs, and as expected, there are a few that have damage beyond repair. Building inspectors are now on site to complete a more comprehensive assessment.”

While Lee schools won’t be opening this week, Bernier said waiting for January was not an option.

“We are in the middle of a historic event. We are ground zero for Ian. We were, and still are, significantly impacted,” he said. “That is not going to stop us from opening schools as soon as possible.”

The district’s first school board meeting since Hurricane Ian will be Tuesday at 4 p.m.

“We are going to get back to normal, retrieve what the storm tried to take away, and prove that WE will help move our children, families, staff, and community forward he said. “This process will be developmental and transitional, but we will reopen.”

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