DESOTO COUNTY, Fla. — Schools in DeSoto County will be closed until at least mid-October after several sustained damage from Hurricane Ian.
Early estimates showed DeSoto County High School may be closed for two months, but the superintendent tells FOX 4 they may be able to speed up that timeline.
Superintendent Dr. Bobby Bennett said, "we want to get our kids and our employees back into buildings to try to have some normalcy. As soon as we can get to that point, it’s got to be safely."
He says of their six school campuses, DeSoto County High School suffered the most damage with significant water damage and roof damage.
"Right now our high school has the most damage, the worst damage, Nocatee Elementary has quite a bit of damage in one particular wing, the middle school has some light damage, light damage at Memorial, light damage at West," he said. "We are part of FSBIT. The Florida School Board Insurance Trust and it happened this summer for us, or we would really be up a creek without a paddle. They had boots on the ground in DeSoto County at 3:30 the day after the hurricane, drying our high school out so we have been blessed beyond measure having those folks help us."
He says the timeline of going back to school is fluid, but it will be at least a few weeks.
"We would like to, the week of the 14th later in the week, bring some of our employees back in, those who can safely be back in the buildings. We would like to bring our students back the 21st, with the exception of the high school. Hopefully we can get it quicker than the two months we were told yesterday, it looks like we might be able to shorten that, we’re still working on that piece. We might have to do some kind of split schedule with the middle school- everyday evolves and every morning we wake up we get good news and then get pieces of bad news."
As far as virtual learning, Dr. Bennett said it is not an option right now but could be down the road.
"50% of DeSoto county doesn’t have electricity so that means computers are out, hot spots are out, we want everybody to have electric and good water," Bennett said. "A split schedule or maybe an alternating day schedule- we know as electricity comes up we might be able to do some more virtual activities with our high school kids and give them some in-person learning. We want to try to be in-person as soon as possible with every child, we might have to have a schedule that brings middle schoolers in a little earlier than normal and dismisses them and bring our high schoolers in for just a couple of hours a day, but we want to be able to have face to face contact with our kids."
Dr. Bennett said he doesn't want families to worry about making up school, just focus on taking care of themselves.
"Right now we want people to be healthy and safe, we’ll bring the school piece in and we’ll make up the learning loss, we’re not scared we’re not gonna back off that piece, we’ll do it very aggressive once our kids are back in the buildings."
The superintendent will be providing updates every Monday on the school district's website, Facebook page and through parent phone calls.