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CAPE CORAL | Construction plan celebrated for school devastated by Ian

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Sep 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-28 19:07:48-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — The Lee County School District has announced the new site for Hector A. Cafferata, Jr. School in Cape Coral. The current campus, not being used by students, was damaged severely by Hurricane Ian.

The new school will be at 214 NW 20th Ave., about seven minutes away from the current location. Parents are reflecting on what they saw the day after Ian hit.

"We saw the roof hanging on the side of the building," said Guillermo Suarez, a Hector Cafferata parent.

Principal Dr. Jason Kurtz got a first look at the damage after Ian.

"Water was still actively dripping from the ceilings," Kurtz said. "There were holes through the roof. You could see daylight. It was emotional."

With a damaged school, Suarez says he wasn't sure what was going to happen. His sons, Guillermo III and Adrian, went to Pelican Elementary before going into portables in December 2022.

Fast forward to a year since Ian, there's a sign of hope and a clean slate.

"It’s a surreal moment that you know, Hector Cafferata is going to get rebuilt," Suarez said.

Kurtz calls this time his "renaissance" and "out of the dust of Hurricane Ian."

"We will rebuild this school better, stronger and more vibrant than before," said Dr. Christopher Bernier, the district superintendent.

It comes with a new name: Hector A. Cafferata, Jr. School, rather than elementary school. That's because it will now bring in kids up to eighth grade rather than fifth to keep up with the city's growth.

"I think by the time this school building is built, several of the vacant lots that you see surrounding us will have homes on them, and they will come in all age ranges and sizes," Bernier said.

Kurtz says he thinks it's great for them because they get to raise up the middle schoolers.

The new school will not open until August 2025, but it's clear the waiting game is worth it for Suarez's children, who say they are excited about their new school.

"They’re going to have a new school to go to and be together," Suarez said.

Kurtz says the old campus will be torn down any day now. While it will not be an elementary school, it will still be used for education.

The principal says Cape Coral Technical College, right next door, will use it for future expansion.